Famous detective Sherlock Holmes is a bit of a skeptic when it comes to the supernatural. But his mind is nothing if not agile, so he quickly adapts his thinking when the evidence becomes overwhelming: prominent people in London are being attacked by vampires.
Officially, Holmes died in an epic battle with his nemesis, Moriarty. Moriarty’s men aren’t convinced though, so Holmes is in hiding for his own safety. This means that he can’t contact Watson or Inspector Lestrade for help when the vampires find him. They aren’t looking to kill Holmes. On the contrary, they need his help.
Normally, vampires are a discreet presence in London. The Queen herself quietly tolerates them, which keeps them largely safe from the law. But suddenly, one of their number has gone rogue, messily murdering people in positions of authority, and Her Majesty isn’t feeling so tolerant. If they can’t take out the murderous vampire Chanes and soon, then the Queen will have the vampires of London exterminated.
Holmes isn’t inclined to help. While some vampires might be more subtle about their thirst for blood than others, they are all monsters who murder humans. But when their leader threatens Watson and his wife Mary, Holmes agrees to find Chanes in order to protect them. Of course, things are more complex than the vampires are letting on. Luckily, complexity and secrets are no match for Sherlock Holmes.
The twisting plot and Holmes’s clever maneuverings will be familiar ground for fans of the great detective. The addition of vampires takes Holmes outside of his usual territory, but it’s fun to watch him apply his usual tricks to an unusual situation. Disguises, ploys, chemical research, and, of course, observation and deduction serve Holmes as well as ever.
The characters, too, will spark recognition in fans of the original Holmes stories. Watson appears only briefly, but he is important both as a motivator for Holmes and as part of the story’s framing device. Missing Watson to record his adventure, Holmes writes it down himself with an eye toward leaving it for Watson to find. We also get a glimpse of Lestrade and some discussion of Irene Adler.
Laci’s art is luxuriously detailed, with a feel that is somewhere between noir and a dark superhero setting. There’s enough going on in each panel to keep the eye engaged for much longer than it takes to read the text. Architectural details and background characters give the book visual depth. The backdrop, clothing, and dialog all feel right for a Victorian setting, at least to this non-expert. The story’s sensibilities might not be exactly Victorian, but there’s no nudity and only implied sex. Violence, on the other hand, is plentiful and, in a very literal and bloody sense, splashy.
Holmes is the stoic, brilliant hero that his fans expect and the vampires are suitably devious opponents. It’s a challenge to live up to the potential suggested by a title like Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London. Happily, this book delivers.
Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London
by Sylvain Cordurié
Art by Laci
Dark Horse, 2014