Mar 30, 2014

[REVIEW] Watson + Holmes Issue #1


Sherlock Holmes & Dr. John Watson are two of literature’s most enduring characters.  They are the subject of numerous books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and have inspired even more characters, either through adaptations into plays, movies and television shows.

The list of actors who have portrayed Sherlock Holmes is very long and distinguished, and includes names such as John Barrymore, Joaquim De Almeida (probably best known as the villainous El Bucho in Robert Rodriguez’ Desperado) Michael Caine, and most recently Robert Downey Jr. in the movies, while Jonny Lee Miller (CBS’ Elementary) and Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock) portray him on television.
The character of Dr. Gregory House is also inspired by the good Dr. Holmes, with his best friend Dr. James Wilson being the Watson to House’s Holmes. (get it? House? Homes?)

The idea of adapting a famous literary character to other locations, and changing up their attributes to create a  fresh start, so to speak, is fine, and I welcome that.  And the idea of taking historically white and British characters and changing them to African-Americans sounds like a novel take on it, and it could be an interesting venture.


There are those out there who would recoil in horror at the idea of Sherlock and Watson being played by African Americans (or anyone who’s not white, let’s be honest), but I’ve never saw the logic in that.  While there are some characters, such as James Bond, who are so identified by their nationality and has their country so deeply ingrained into who they are, that it would be foolish to attempt to make them Spanish, or American or whatever. I never understood the uproar over someone who wasn’t white playing him.
As far as I’m concerned, as long as the actor is British, I don’t care who plays him.  Although if I’m honest, I don’t give two shits about James Bond, so at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.

But I digress.

When I heard that Paradigm Studios was revamping the Sherlock Holmes story  for a new comic book series, “Watson and Holmes”, and transporting them from 221 Baker Street in London, England, to 221 Baker Street in Harlem, New York, I was struck by a few thoughts at once.

At first thought, it seemed interesting.  A completely different setting, making it modern day (which is the cool thing to do these days, it appears), and changing the socio-economic status of the characters, I felt could be something that was very interesting, and was an opening to perhaps do some nice social commentary.

And then other little things started nagging at the back of my brain.  Why Harlem, New York?  Why the decision to make these two characters African-American, and put them in Harlem out of all the places in the United States you could have put them?  Harlem seems to be fairly stereotypical, and considering the fact that Karl Bollers, the writer (who is African-American and pushed for the setting to be in Harlem, rather than a fictional city) claimed that a goal of his was to sort of combat that stereotypical notion of black characters on the comics page. It just seems to be an odd choice.

Another thing was you’re making this modern day, and you’re putting this African-American detective (Holmes) and Medical intern (Watson) in Harlem, and they’re going up against these street thugs and gangs? I mean, this is Sherlock effing Holmes, not some vice cop trying to score his detective shield. Sherlock should not be wasting his intellect bringing down some street thugs who kidnapped some dude’s sister for leverage over some computer tech. He should be going after bigger fish.

Now I’m not going to get that upset over it because the series is only two issues old at this point, and I’ll hope this is simply the introduction to the characters. There is some interesting aspects that are teased, such as the origins of both Watson and Holmes. I’m especially intrigued by the story of Watson who has a background in Afghanistan as a Parajumper, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

I did have some small issues with some aspects to the series though. It’s a good series, and shows a lot of promise. It’s fairly well written, if a bit cliched at times. One thing that stuck out is how Holmes, is one minute like this ultra cool and intelligent guy who knows everything about everything and is up on the times and the technology and what have you, and then he’s dropping a reference to a dance craze (The Chicken Noodle Soup) that was out seven years ago.  Almost like they threw it out there because of it’s Harlem roots.  Which is fine, but wouldn’t you think you’d pull out a more relevant one? I mean if only there was a dance out there that’s associated with Harlem that would be more recognizable.


I realize Holmes is sometimes played as this socially awkward eccentric that tends to say out there things (see Jonny Lee Miller’s version on CBS’ Elementary for an example), however I didn’t really pick up that vibe from the comic version, which made that line seem all the more weird.

The storyline is very entertaining, and the artwork is very good as well. I liked the art style of the series, and I really thought it was cool how they’ve also released the “Noir Editions” of the issues.  A lot of comics will do the “Alternate covers” where you can pay the full price for the same book with a different pose on the front or whatever.

However what these guys did, which I thought was really cool, was they have an edition of it with the same book, but in black and white.  That’s pretty cool, I think.  So if you Walking Dead fans out there like that black and white comics thing going on, you might wanna check out the Noir Edition of this.

For the most part I liked the dialogue, if it did occasionally hit the unintentional funny bone.  The changing of the characters to African Americans, has led to the moments where young kids are saying things like “Sup Holmes?”  Yeah I kinda chuckled at that, I admit.  But I’m easy like that.

All in all, this is a solid offering out of the game by Paradigm Studios, and I’m definitely eager to read more and will cop the new issues when they drop.  They are available via Digital Comics + for 99 cents each, which at that price, you shouldn’t have a problem supporting independent media.

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