Written by Roger Gibson, art by Vince Danks — It’s been hard to avoid movies based on comic books these last few years. Avengers Assemble and The Dark Knight Rises have become two of the biggest grossing films of all time, whilst at the same time receiving critical praise. Elsewhere Spiderman, Thor, Iron Man and Captain America appear to be building solid franchises. Many also have aspects which might attract the interest of crime fiction lovers – great action, suspense, tight plotting, or a fast pace. On the surface however, actual comics might interest us less. Too many capes, too much lycra, convenient superpowers… not that interesting, really.
Harker: The Book of Soloman does interest me though, and it should interest you too. Titan has collected the monthly comic into a nifty hardcover graphic novel, with the promise of more to follow. There’s no capes, no superpowers, and no lycra. Instead DCI Harker and DS Critchley are coppers, out-of-towners called in for jobs the normal police can’t manage, in particular multiple homicides. They don’t arrive in a spaceship, they can’t read minds or fire rockets out their backsides, and so far they haven’t died and come back a month later as if it never happened. What they have is a confidence, sometimes bordering on arrogance, usually sound intuition, Jack-the-lad humour and an understanding of each other that the best cop partnerships have. That doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes. They do, and they nearly pay for them.
Harker and Critchley are called in when a second corpse is found mutilated on the steps of St George’s Church, Bloomsbury. The victim has been cut through the chest and abdomen, internal organs on display. Fibres on the fingers found at autopsy suggest the victim was handling antiquarian books and Critchley begins to suspect this is the work of a satanic cult. When the victim is identified and found to have been searching the archives of the British Museum for The Key Of Soloman, a book of black magic, he’s convinced. Harker isn’t so sure, experience having taught him that Satan is less likely to be a motive for murder than sex or money.
Together they chase down friends and acquaintance of the victims and both motives become equally likely. The hunt for the murderer becomes increasingly fraught as the body count rises and Harker is forced into a game of cat and mouse in the subterranean tunnels beneath the British Museum.
Being a graphic novel rather than prose means Roger Gibson has less room to tell his story, and he makes every word count. The art is very successful in telling the tale, and is impressive throughout, with some of the full page drawings in particular standing out. My only complaint with this book is that it isn’t a little longer. With so much great crime fiction out there I can understand if some people might be a little reluctant to try something different but really there is very little here that will disappoint. Harker: The Book Of Soloman joins Parker: The Score, Blacksad: A Silent Hell and Stumptown in the list of great crime graphic novels.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars