Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Watson and Holmes #1 Print Edition Review Or Uptown Saturday Night


Last year upstart publisher New Paradigm Studios launched their digital comic book series Watson and Holmes. It was a modern re-imagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic characters with a new twist: the lead roles were African-American. The   series was enjoyable and after hearing they were releasing a print version of the first issue (including a few extras) I had no choice but to take a look.  



We open up with medical intern, Jon Watson at the hospital, attempting to save the life of a newborn found in a dumpster. Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse and the child dies, just as young man is wheeled into the ER on a stretcher. Watson learns that besides being severely beaten, the victim has overdosed on drugs. This is where we're introduced to the second part of our duo as Holmes enters, and informs Watson that the patient had overdosed on truth serum. Their fateful meeting leads to a mystery involving a gang member’s kidnapped sister, an exclusive nightclub that's never in the same place twice and a group of mercenaries who may hail from Watson's stint in the Afghan war. After finding out Holmes is not affiliated with law enforcement of any kind, Watson is left to wonder what his newfound partner’s motivations are.


Writer Karl Bollers does a good job of us making us feel for our narrator (Jon Watson) right off the bat. His narration captures the essence of a compassionate man dedicated to helping people. Holmes' hunger for mystery is a fixture of the character; it's what he does, if not who he is. Holmes, especially in this incarnation, is almost an enigmatic force of nature, embodying the conundrums he attempts to solve. Watson, on the other hand, is a normal man who fought in the Afghan war, has a normal job as well as a family, and is swept up in the story's mystery like a leaf in the wind. Bollers has not only constructed a good story but also asked one of the most important internal questions and that is "What drives a man?"


Rick Leonardi does a great job of visually telling this story, and though I've read the comic in digital format, the print version is even more beautifully done. The pacing of the art on the page adds emotional weight to scenes (i.e. when Watson and co. fail to save the newborn) and a high-octane, adrenaline-fueled rush during chase scenes. Paul Mendoza's color looks like a work from the Harlem Renaissance, using earthy colors that give an urban feel without looking grimy. GURUEFX’s digital re-master adds touches to the art that help the story come to life.

The Real

I never thought I'd say this, but the print version of Watson and Holmes is actually cooler than the digital version. There is something refreshing about the tone of this series and it's not just that the main characters are African-American, but the way they're portrayed as well. When contemporary comics feature underrepresented groups, they end up falling into categories that become caricatures; this story avoids that and makes them people, who happen to be African-American. That said, there are no questions of authenticity here either, as the characters keep certain cultural nuances that remind us where we are in the story and where the characters come from.  Watson and Holmes # 1 is now available at your local comic shop.
Rating 5/5

1 comment:

Penelope Flynn said...

What a wonderful review. The artwork you've chosen to display is stellar and evocative and your description of the characters and plot really make a reader want to run out and grab this!