What happens when the world’s greatest detective, and the world’s greatest escape artist team up to solve a murder mystery wrapped in a complex and drawn out historical drama? Even we are left scratching our heads after reading Sherlock Holmes vs. Harry Houdini #3.
Previously in Sherlock Homes vs. harry Houdini: After fighting and butting heads again and again, the master detective and the escape artist are no closer to solving the murder of the audience member at one of Harry Houdini’s performances. With each trying to put down the other, and Houdini trying to protect a secret from his past, the show must go on, even if it means another death.
HISTORICAL FACTS MEET HISTORICAL FICTION
As the third installment of this series gets underway, I am most troubled by the portrayal of Harry Houdini and Sherlock Holmes. Granted, the writers can do anything they want with Sherlock Holmes – he is after all a work of fiction and thus subject to the whims and motives of the pen, but when incorporating a real person into a tale, I worry that the person is going to be misrepresented. Harry Houdini did take the name Houdini from Robert-Houdin, and Houdini did take a lot of pride in exposing frauds whenever he found them, so I do know the writers did research the life of the illusionist. It does bother me though that the Houdini portrayed in this book goes around starting fights, tells off his wife, and is willing to put other’s lives in danger. I haven’t read the many biographies on Houdini’s life, so this may be one of those times where the reader needs to stop worrying about the real person, and focus on the story being told.
Which brings us to Rasputin. In my review of the first issue, I pointed out that the floating head, Russian accent, and long beard were probably signs that Rasputin was the big bad of the series, and if you’ve read ahead to upcoming solicitations, you know that he continues to baffle Holmes and Houdini through the rest of the series. The addition of the Mad Monk makes the story a bit more interesting, but getting to the reveal feels convoluted at times. There are conversations and bits of information that suddenly appear in the story that haven’t been revealed before, as well as a few problems of how the characters got from A to C without going through B first.
THE GUESSING GAME
I wish I could say the art in this issue is top notch – it’s certainly better than what I can do, but on the whole it is very average. There are pages where everything is oddly framed and composed, and it feels as though the panel border was added simply to cut off things the artist didn’t want to draw. The double page spread at the apartment, then bar is the most troubling of the issue. That being said, I did like the use of black panels during the performance to heighten the tension of who would be killed or injured.
Because the story is about a bunch of white guys, with dark hair, who are the same height, the colorist made a wise choice in having Houdini wander around the streets of London in a red coat to help distinguish Houdini and Holmes on the page. I do appreciate that Aikau Oliva took the time to give a mixed wash of colors and textures on backgrounds to give panels more depth, as it keeps the drawing from looking too flat.
BOTTOM LINE: IT’S A MYSTERY
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini were friends in real life, so having the writer’s most famous character teaming with Houdini continues to be a weird meta moment, and it continues to bother me. We haven’t seen Doctor Watson do much in this series, and aside from the title characters arguing over Holmes’s drug addiction and its affects in the story, I wonder why this story couldn’t have been Doyle and Houdini solving the mystery with Doyle trying to use the logic and deductive reasoning of Holmes as the basis of the conflict between the two. I like mysteries a great deal, and Sherlock Holmes is always a fun detective to follow as more and more writers develop the character further, but this issue just left me scratching my head, and unless you’ve committed to the series, or are a die hard fan of either character, you may want to pass on this issue.
Sherlock Holmes vs. Harry Houdini arrives in stores on January 14, 2015.