Tripwire’s contributing writer Tim Hayes casts his eye over Time Bomb Comics’ Harker The Book Of Solomon Book One by Roger Gibson and Vincent Danks…
Harker: The Book Of Solomon Book One
Writer: Roger Gibson
Artist: Vincent Danks
Colours: Ben Lopez
Time Bomb Comics
Two of British comics’ more eccentric detectives return to the mean streets of Bloomsbury courtesy of Time Bomb Comics, which is reprinting the Harker series from the beginning before a planned branch out into new stories once the existing ones have been retold. Created by Roger Gibson and Vincent Danks in 2009 for Ariel Press and then reissued subsequently by Titan, the original black and white Harker stories have also been coloured for this reprinting by Ben Lopez, perhaps adjusting the commercial potential for a new audience as well as altering the atmosphere of the story for the comic’s substantial existing fan base, and both groups should be happy to have the series back as a going concern.
The cops in question are DCI Harker and his assistant DS Critchley, but the first quirk of the story is that Critchley does most of the talking and Harker hangs around in the background. Critchley does a lot of the thinking too, or at least the logical bits of it. Harker, prone to repetitive behaviour patterns and impulsive digressions, is partly a maverick in the traditional mode of all TV detectives worth their warrant cards, a genre the comic is explicitly playing with, although you don’t have to squint too hard to see the comic carefully alluding to the character’s mental health as well. The pair appear in an incongruous white luxury motor suggesting Inspector Morse, but further back up the line of oddball investigators Jason King arriving in a Bentley might be an even closer match, and from there it’s a short step to the detective duo in Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles via The Sweeney, whose brashness is also being referenced here… It’s a hall of mirrors in pop culture’s CID branch.
The Book of Solomon Part One is half of the duo’s first story, kicked off by the discovery of a mutilated corpse on the steps of St. George’s Bloomsbury—a Hawksmoor church. You can’t put ritual murder and Nicholas Hawksmoor on the same page without the reader thinking of From Hell, and the trail does indeed lead the detectives into occult cults and esoteric evils, although the flavour is more domestic than cosmic. So far these Satanists are very polite, but it’s early days. Vincent Danks guarantees the art has plenty of London character through a healthy amount of photo reference in the Bloomsbury locations: St. George’s, the British Museum and the Museum Tavern are all carefully rendered, and an occult bookshop nearby is clearly The Atlantis Bookshop. This approach, of pans around realistic buildings and streets in front of which more stylised characters go about their business, is a very European model of comics storytelling, and Lopez’s soft pastel colouring fits the sophisticated Euro vibe too. Photo reference in faces and figures is always more of a mixed bag—Harker and Critchley bear a remarkable resemblance to Gibson and Danks themselves while the story’s first victim is a dead ringer for heavyweight actor Ian McNeice—but the return of Harker is a welcome reappearance of an accessible mature British comic series that knows not just what it wants to pastiche but why it wants to do it.
Harker: The Book Of Solomon Part One is out now from Time Bomb Comics