A detective story featuring a pair of British investigators on the hunt for a murderer in the heart of London, Harker: The Book of Solomon is a fairly routine thriller, albeit one with an involving story and interesting characters. More than anything else, it reads like something you might see on the BBC at 9 on a Monday (“crime hour”).
Written by Roger Gibson, this trade focuses on two mismatched policemen called Harker and Critchley. Critchley, a bald guy with sunglasses and goatee, is the more developed of the two characters, and immediately makes his personality known. London to his core, he flirts with every woman he sees, employs a no-nonsense attitude, and acts as the more focused of the two. Harker, on the other hand, never feels to be quite so nailed down as a character. He initially seems like he might be played off like a Constantine-esque sarcasm machine, but then starts to seem like he might be a bit cowardly, almost in a Jeeves and Wooster fashion. The way Gibson nails Critchley but struggles with Harker is perhaps the biggest problem the story faces.
There’s no problem with the narrative, however, A standard take on the murder mystery, this benefits from taking a few unexpected turns which keep the reader unaware and cautious. The comics medium has an immediate advantage over television or film in that stories can suddenly veer from one genre to another, and as soon as Gibson establishes that there may be magic or Satanism at hand here, the reader is caught off-guard. This could be a double-bluff or this could be a crime story which suddenly erupts into full-blown sci-fi at any moment. In the absence of jump-cuts of loud sound effects, this is Gibson’s way of making sure the reader is never quite settled with the story.
While the supporting characters round themselves out rather nicely, it does become clear rather early on who the victims are going to be — which is, again, par for the course with a British detective story. Yet Gibson gives them all a sense of awareness about their position, which elevates them above being stock characters. The dialogue is well-paced, with some fun jokes and off-kilter moments of silliness which, again, serve to keep the reader guessing. Once the killer is revealed things crank into a standard chase/fight sequence, complete with dramatic monologue, but it’s again a little above the average in terms of pacing.
Vince Danks’ artwork complements the story well. The decision to not use color pays off, as the black-and-white gives the story a feel of a proper pulp detective novel. Danks does good work with characterization and expression, although his most obvious strength is his ability to recreate London, through architecture and location. This story was clearly researched carefully before making it onto the page, and Danks’ storytelling grows in confidence as the story continues.
Harker: The Book of Solomon is an entertaining thriller from Gibson and Danks, although it doesn’t attempt to stray beyond the usual limits of a detective story. The dialogue is sound, the story well plotted, and the tone and art work well together. If you’re a fan of crime, it’s worth having a look at.
Steve Morris is the head and indeed only writer for Comics Vanguard, the internet’s 139th most-favorite comic-book website. You can find him on Twitter at @stevewmorris, which is mostly nonsensical gibberish you may enjoy or despise. His favorite Marvel character is Darkstar, while his favorite DC character is, also, Darkstar. He’s on Team X-Men, you guys.