This is a really impressive crime procedural comic. Harker has gorgeous art and a really thoughtful story.
But why tell when you can show? First, look at this wonderful splash page. Notice the gorgeous way that artist Vince Danks draws London. Observe all that detail he puts on that page, and notice the care that Danks puts into making every line of the city look just right. It’s really impressive and really professional.
In fact, professional is the right word for this series. Writer Roger Gibon talks in his introduction about how he has this series plotted all the way to book two, and that forward planning is really obvious in this story. Gibon has clearly thought through his characters and his storylines.
The two detectives, Harker and Critchley, seem to have real depth to them. They’ve obviously worked together for a long time and have the sort of complex relationship with each other that longtime coworkers always seem to develop with each other. See the image over there to the right for an example of how the two men interact. It’s a small scene, not filled with great depth of complicated interaction, but you can see a comfortable sort of interaction with each other.
The two men are apparently roving critics working to investigate serial killers in Britian. They come to London to investigate what seems like a ritual murder on the steps of a Hawksmoor church (if you’ve read From Hell, you know what it means to be murdered at a Hawksmoor church). But is it really a ritual murder, or is the killer camouflaging his actions by using the church as the backdrop.
I especially enjoyed the way the interviews were conducted – see the image at the left to see part of that scene. Gibon seems to effortlessly reveal character in small moments in these interviews – we get a feel for the murdered man’s complicated interactions with his friends and neighbors; though those interviews we in turn get an interesting view of the man’s life. And is there a hint of marital tension in this scene? Is the husband giving his wife a dirty look, and if so, will that pay off later on in this storyline?
Back in the early ’90s, the great British cartoonist Paul Grist also produced a brilliant crime comic, called Kane. It ran over 30 issues and produced a half-dozen graphic novels. That series was brilliantly done, and was a singular accomplishment in comics art. But despite its critical success, the book never sold much, and Grist moved away to his wonderful Jack Staff. Since that time, the comics industry has suffered a dearth of great crime comics.
So Harker is doubly a joy. It’s joy because Harker is a worthy successor to Grist’s creation, a thoughtful, well-written and –drawn exploration into humanity’s darker side. It’s also a joy because great comics are always a pleasure.
This is a small-press comic, but it is in no way a small-time production. Harker is the work of two creators who do terrific comics. I’m thrilled to be in on the ground floor of this one.
For more on this comic, check out arielpress.com.