Harker issue 7 – It’s great. But you all knew I’d say that by now.
by Roger Gibson and Vince Danks
At this point, after four glowing reviews of the first Harker storyline I should just be writing a quick recap, a quick mention of the new issue and assuring you that the first issue of this second storyline is just as strong, just as good, just as enjoyable as the first storyline was.
But I’d feel I was somehow letting it down. If this were some Marvel, DC, Fantagraphics or Dark Horse series I’d be doing just that. But it’s not – it’s a comic produced by Gibson and Danks that’s only available online and from those comic shops in the UK smart enough to look around for new, interesting comics that appeal to a wider audience. Sadly Diamond Distributors have taken the view (shortsighted and just plain wrong) that this series doesn’t have the potential sales to justify it’s inclusion in Previews and hence isn’t available to the majority of UK & US Comic Shops. Rant over. Back to the comic.
To quickly recap: Harker is Detective Chief Inspector Harker who; along with his assistant, Detective Sergeant Critchley, specialise in serial murder cases. Harker’s the classic hard boiled copper in his late fifties, very much in the mould of classic detectives; moody, anti-social, almost incapable of functioning in the modern police force and quite, quite brilliant at getting to the heart of any investigation. Critchley is the Watson to Harker’s Holmes, the Lewis to his Morse, the Carter to his Regan (you get the idea); full of the arrogance of youth, always there with a witty quip for his boss and a chat up line for the ladies. In the first storyline (issues 1-6 – The Book Of Solomon) they tackled what looked like a series ritualistic Satanic murders and managed to provide some of the best entertainment in comics all this year.
(DCI Harker in a good mood? Don’t worry, it doesn’t last for long. From the ever-wonderful Harker by Gibson and Danks)
With the start of this second storyline: Murder By The Book, Detective Chief Inspector Harker, the grumpiest policeman in the world, is off on his holidays in Whitby. But, as we find out on the very first page, Harker’s choice of holiday destination is no accident – and a visit to one particular grave suddenly opens the entire series up and throws up a host of questions about Harker’s origins. Unless Gibson’s just chucking this into the mix as a nice bit of coincidental background of course. I’ve learnt not to try to second guess Harker – just sit back and enjoy.
If you’ve read any Harker, and if not, why not? you’ll be aware of the huge amount of authentic detail that goes into both script and art to get the locations just right – and it’s the same in this new series – anyone familiar with Whitby will have fun playing spot the local landmarks; the 199 steps to the Abbey, the harbour, the youth hostel buildings that double as Harker’s hotel – all as beautifully rendered by Danks as his detailed architecture of London in the first storyline.
So; Harker’s on holiday, all is well, he’s actually having a good, relaxing time – which means we all know it’s not going to last. And when Agatha Fletcher, world famous crime novelist and stroppy diva pitches up in Harker’s hotel to take part in a Murder Mystery Weekend the story goes the only way it can. Do you think Gibson and Danks are having a pop at Murder She Wrote? Oh yes.
(Crime novelist and all round annoying diva Agatha Fletcher gets the murder mystery weekend underway. I’m sure I’m not going to be giving much away if I tell you that shortly after this things get a little murderous for real. This is Harker after all.)
Again, just like the first series, this early issue setup really has that feeling of being a classic detective thriller, pure Agatha Christie or Conan Doyle in the wonderful way Gibson and Danks take us around the characters that will feature in this series. Without realising it’s being done, we’re introduced to the cast and are given a lot of important details – and not once does it feel forced, not once does it affect the flow of the piece.
And the flow in Harker is one of it’s best points – the story really does flow quite cinematically at times, with Danks’ visual style a perfect fit for Gibson’s fast paced, comedic setups. Because even though Harker may be a brilliant crime series one of it’s most endearing features and the main reason I keep banging on about how much I’m enjoying it is the humour; with this issue I was grinning from ear to ear from the dialogue between Harker and the diva authoress:
(“Poxy crime writers” “Now kindly sod off” – just the sort of thing I love from Harker. After the peace and quiet of the first few pages with a strangely content DCI Harker it’s nice to have the grumpiest copper in the world back.)
Next issue we deal with the fallout from the murder. Oh, did I not mention there’s a murder? It is a crime book after all – and seeing as Gibson set it up from the very moment Harker realised he was trapped in the middle of a murder mystery weekend we all knew they’d be bloody murder at some point. We also get the return of DS Critchley and the lovely (and crucially – very sarcastic) pathologist Griffin in the next issue.
Harker’s still my favourite comic of the year and with this second volume Gibson and Danks are pushing on, not really doing anything particularly differently, but when it’s done this well, that really doesn’t matter.
All of the Harker issues are available from the Ariel Press website and there’s a list of the comic shops stocking it here. If your comic shop doesn’t have it on it’s shelves – ask them why not. And the collection of the first 6 issues is out very soon – pre-order it here.