Thursday, 16 December 2010
‘Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes vs Zombies!’ – Davide Fabbri and Ian Eddington (Titan Books)
Before now, I’d seen individual issues of ‘Victorian Undead’ on the shelves and had resolved to give it a go when it hit trade paperback format. While I’ll admit to going off ‘classic novels featuring zombies’ as a humorous device, the gimmick has worn a little thin by now, there is still a little room to do something more serious; especially in comic books (a format that zombies transfer to very effectively, you already know the examples that I’m thinking of...) If that wasn’t enough... well, it’s ‘Sherlock Holmes and zombies’ dammit! Just those four words promise a feast of flesh eating undead, a villainous villain and problems solved with ease by that most talented of detectives; how could I not pick it up?
Having read the book, my anticipation proved to be fully justified. Shame about the artwork though...
In 1854, a strange meteor was seen above the skies of London. In its wake, the dead rose and set about the business of trying to eat the living... The ensuing twenty years saw Her Majesty’s Secret Service keep the situation under control, and under wraps, but a new threat has arisen that MI5 are powerless to prevent. That arch villain Moriarty is using zombies to further his dreams of world domination and when Moriarty’s plans are set to come to fruition there will only ever be one man who can stop him. Step forward one Sherlock Holmes! Holmes has never faced the living dead though...
‘Victorian Undead’ is a fun read and one of those reads where I found myself wishing I’d made the effort to pick the series up a lot earlier. Oh well, I got there in the end! It could have so easily gone the other way though...
It may sound like an obvious thing to say but the artwork is the first thing that you notice in a comic book and, once I’d got past the rather excellent cover pieces, I have to say that I wasn’t all that impressed with what Fabbri had to offer. The art itself does the job well enough but I found that I wasn’t all that keen on the ‘verging on the cartoonish’ zombies and the slightly bland colouring on display (which certainly didn’t do Fabbri’s work any favours). When the ‘living’ characters are rendered well, you expect the same of the undead but that wasn’t happening here. I guess that I’ve been spoilt by Charlie Adlard’s superb artwork in ‘The Walking Dead’... Like I said; while the artwork does its job, the cartoonish zombies take away some of the impact that the book wants to have in terms of pulp horror. I know there’s a good reason why the cover art is always better than what’s inside but, this time round, the gap was a little too wide to be entirely comfortable.
It’s a good job then that the story itself makes up for these shortcomings with a tale that gripped me right from the start. Of course it was going to grip me, there were zombies in it! It’s not just the zombies though; although Eddington does well in giving his readers plenty of zombie action in terms of nasty surprises and full on zombie swarms. Eddington’s Holmes is just how you would expect the great detective to be; totally in control of every situation (even that one underneath the railway line...) and with a keen analytical mind that always turns out to be at least two steps ahead of everyone else. It is fun to see Holmes work his way through the zombie mystery and it adds to the excitement that he is also a man who is not afraid to get his hands dirty when things get tough. There is plenty going on and our man Holmes is right in the thick of it!
I had some issues with the artwork but, on the whole, ‘Victorian Undead’ is a very engaging read where I just had to find out what happened at the end. It might not be up there with the best zombie comics but it will still sit proudly on the shelf.
Eight and a Quarter out of Ten