Wednesday, January 14, 2015

SHIN - Advance Review, . . . but not by me.

Advance Review: In stores today!


Writer: Anthony del Col & Conor McCreery
Artist: Carlos Furuzono
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Lyzard

My relationship with Anthony del Col and Conor McCreery as a critic of theirs has been a rocky one. There are the times that I am praising their works, and then others when I am left shaking my head and crying “why, why” when things go ever so utterly wrong in their narratives. Then there is the snickering over Twitter when those two somehow take a story from a-okay to awesome. Our rapport is hardly consistent. Their work on SHERLOCK HOLMES VS. HARRY HOUDINI, however, is.

This comic hinges on the back and forth between the asshole detective and pompous magician. Though there is a mutual respect between the two men, it is their constant need to one-up the other, to be the smartest man in the room, to beat the other to the punch (sometimes literally) that drives this comic along. The series has potential far beyond the current mystery, but only because of how del Col and McCreery have written these two characters. While their artistic depictions are much too similar, their voices are keenly distinct. A line said by Houdini could not be mistaken for spoken by Holmes. Even though in issue #3 they spend the least amount of page time together, their contesting natures drive the story. They could be searching for a dognapper for all I care, I’d still read this comic.

But Holmes and Houdini have their sights set on someone more villainous than Cruella DeVille. After Houdini’s London premiere ended in a “suicide,” the two rationalists have been looking for the flesh and blood murderer who caused the incident and who has also threatened to create more chaos unless the American bows down to his awesome powers. Sound familiar? Perhaps I was so taken by the comic’s conceit that the similarity escaped me for the first two issues, but the climax of this book veered eerily close to the first Robert Downey Jr. SHERLOCK HOLMES flick. I am in no way accusing anyone of plagiarism. Parallels are bound to be found in material based on the same literary source. But if I were to find fault with the storytelling in this issue it would be how the plot felt more like del Col and McCreery’s other works, perhaps more “Killing Conan Doyle” rather than a clear focus on their original pairing of Houdini and Holmes, two jackass geniuses fighting against rather than with each other.

The artwork, same as the writing, has changed very little since the first issue. There is a lack of detail resulting in characters with nearly identical features. When Houdini and Holmes are on the same page there is enough to distinguish, but when both men go their separate ways to solve the crime, it can take a panel or two in order to decide whose footsteps we are following now. There was little in the way of action for the first book, so it is not inconsistent for the artwork to improve now that we get some punches being thrown. Much of the physical drama is drawn tight and up close, where Furuzono’s penciling improves in detail. It is when a panel has depth or scope that the over-simplification stands out.

SHERLOCK HOLMES VS. HARRY HOUDINI #3 does exactly what a midpoint issue should do. The stakes are raised ever so high, pushing the characters to their breaking points, and the reader to the edge of their chair in anticipation for what will happen next. I’ve learned my lesson in trying to predict what del Col and McCreery are trying to do, so I will leave the deduction to the experts. However, I doubt even Houdini or Holmes could guess how this story will end.

Lyzard is Lyz Reblin, a graduate student at the University of Texas pursuing a master's degree in Media Studies... which is just a fancy way of saying she plays a lot video games, watches far too many horror films, and then tries to pass it all off as "research."

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