Harker issues 3 & 4 – more classy detective fiction

Published On July 6, 2009 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

Harker issue 3 & 4

by Roger Gibson & Vince Danks

Ariel Press

Harker 3 cover Harker 4 cover

Harker issue 1 & 2 were reviewed a few weeks back. The verdict: I thought it was great.

So with issues 3 & 4 I was really hoping it was going to live up to the promise of the first issues. Well, Gibson & Danks have taken that promise and really gone for it. If 1 & 2 established the characters and setting and dastardly plot, then 3 & 4 are where they relax and open out into the story some more. It’s still completely fantastic genre stuff but it just gets better and better and better here.

Detective Sergeant Critchley thinks this latest case, with the mutilated bodies appearing around London looking like ritualistic killings, is all a bit open and shut; all the clues not only point generally to Satanic cults but specifically to the Key Of Solomon book. Detective Chief Inspector Harker is having none of it. The Satanist cult is hogwash, the book’s a waste of time and he’s determined to get to the bottom of the crime without all this occult nonsense. Even when faced with what looks like a full blown Satanic cult in mid chicken slaughter, he’s suitably acerbic:

“You have got to be joking. What the bloody hell is this, Bride Of Dracula?”
“Ceremony? Raising the devil, are you? Worshipping the Dark Lord Beelzebub? My arse.”
“Let me make this clear – you have no idea how irritated I am by all of this. In fact, I’m verging on the apoplectic.”

“Well, I’m still having fun.”
“You would, Critchley. Hammer films have a lot to answer for.”

And that’s why Harker is such enormous fun. The dialogue and characters certainly aren’t real; no-one really speaks like that all of the time. But Harker isn’t about real characters, just perfectly realised idealised versions of characters we’d possibly like to be. The antecedents are everywhere; Holmes & Watson, Regan & Carter, toss in a bit of Life On Mars’ Gene Hunt for Harker perhaps and you have a little idea of what makes Harker so enjoyable.

Later on in issue 3 we have six marvellous pages of full page art that really play on Vince Danks’ magnificent renderings of background details as the two decamp to the pub and Harker lays it all out very simply for Critchley:

Harker1

(Harker lays it out to Critchley in one of six full page pub interiors that bring out the very best in Vince Danks’ artwork.)

The fun carries on into issue 4, with the best and funniest set piece so far as Harker and Critchley carry out a search on one of the suspect’s houses. Harker’s interrogating in the foreground, determined to debunk all this secret occult stuff as the plod in the background finds the secret lever and the giant door in the bookcase opens… “Er…. Guv?”

Harker2

What follows as Harker and Critchley walk down the secret stairs had me laughing out loud:

Harker3

Harker4

(“I think he could be Batman. Comedy dialogue in the middle of a really great story. That’s Harker.)

A great detective thriller with intriguing story, wonderful art, cracking dialogue and moments of laugh out loud comedy? Harker really does just get better and better. And I’ve barely even mentioned Vince Danks’ art. His figure work is spot on (and I finally figured out what I was seeing – amazingly there’s a touch of Kevin Maguire in his faces and some Nabiel Kanan in the linework) with a very minimal yet very expressive style that just captures every subtle nuance with very few lines. And if his figure work is strong then the settings and his backgrounds are just magnificent. The detailing is amazing. It’s as good as Gerhard’s work on Cerebus – amazing stuff. And the story really plays to Dank’s strengths. Brilliant stuff.

Yet the sad thing about Harker is that despite it being such a great book, despite it being exactly the sort of thing that has a real mainstream appeal, it failed to meet the minimum order levels for Diamond distributors. Something is very, very wrong in comics when something this good fails to get distributed. The upcoming collection of Volume 1 (issues 1-6 of the comic) are going to be in Previews and hopefully Diamond may see the light and carry Volume 2 in comic form as well.

Harker is absolutely fantastic genre work. Perfectly written, fun, funny, dialogue that crackles, characters that intrigue. If your local comic shop doesn’t carry it, you really need to be asking them why not. It’s available direct to any comic shop that wants it – they just need to get in touch with the creators. Alternatively you can order direct from the creators yourselves at their webstore.

Richard Bruton.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

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