DCI Harker’s Whitby getaway; goths, football and murders – life just finds a way to annoy this man.
Harker Volume 2 – The Woman In Black
by Roger Gibson and Vince Danks
Anyone who regularly reads the FPI blog will know I’m a huge fan of Harker. Take this quote that the Harker boys have put on the back of this volume:
“A great detective thriller with intriguing story, wonderful art, cracking dialogue and moments of laugh out loud comedy … an absolute triumph of a comic.”
That was me, talking about Harker when I first discovered it in comic form. I’ve continued to talk it up with every single issue and it still hasn’t disappointed through any of it’s 12 issues.
So here we are at the second collected edition, where we join DCI Harker, the grumpiest cop in the world, mixing up all that’s wonderful about every great police stereotype from Jack Regan to Gene Hunt, on holiday in Whitby. Except his holiday gets interrupted and he gets annoyed, first by an annoying crime writer on a murder mystery weekend and then by that same annoying crime writer getting annoyingly murdered. Annoyed is Harker’s default emotion.
(Harker annoyed. A familiar refrain. And a funny one. From Harker Volume 2 by Gibson and Danks)
I’ve written enough about the individual issues over the past few months that I’m not going to bother you with recapping anything of the actual plot. (See here for everything Harker on the FPI blog)
What I will say is that Volume 2 takes everything that worked so well in Volume 1 and keeps on going. The murder mystery isn’t the most original here, just like it wasn’t in Volume 1. But that’s really not the important thing in a good police procedural (and this is an excellent police procedural), it’s far more important that the journey from murder discovery to solving the crime and catching the killer is an entertaining journey. And Harker is a thrilling, hugely entertaining journey.
One thing that reading the collected volume really brings home is the perfect pacing of the book and the murder investigation(s). Each stage of the investigation, every introduction of each new suspect, every false trail, every twist and every turn is exactly where it should be to generate the best reading experience. Cleverly disguising the identity and motives of the killer until the penultimate episode, Gibson and Danks craft a story full of intricate twists and turns as every murder leads to yet another possible suspect.
(Harker – annoyed again. The murderer’s ruining a perfectly good holiday. Personal indeed)
Yet, as I’ve said many, many times before, the story is only part of the enjoyment in Harker. The characterisations are wonderful – completely and brilliantly unbelievable melding every stereotype of great cop dramas over the years. And the dialogue throughout the book, especially in the special relationship between Harker and Critchley, is fantastically funny stuff.
The other thing that viewing every episode in this collected form shows me is that it’s possibly a good thing that Harker is on a temporary hiatus whilst a publishing deal is being finalised.
Vince Danks has been hitting a deadline every month for a year now, producing a beautifully rendered comic – and on top of that, he’s part of a two man team responsible for every aspect of Harker’s publication. Dave Sim managed 300 issues of Cerebus and (almost) never missed a deadline on a beautiful looking comic. But Dave Sim had Gerhard doing some of the best background art there’s ever been. And whilst Vince Danks’ artwork shares so many of the best aspects of both Gerhard and Sim – gorgeous, detailed, intricate backgrounds, fantastic architecture and striking figure work, he has to do it all on his own.
Which is why a slight drop in quality on a few panels and a few pages in the last couple of issues, barely noticeable when reading the issues in comic form but obvious when seen in direct comparison to the start of this volume isn’t all that unexpected.
Not that the art in those last two episodes is in anyway bad, far from it. But Danks will benefit greatly from the (hopefully mercifully brief) break that Harker finds itself on right now.
(Annoyed again, Harker finds himself on his way to the annual Goth football match – his cup runneth over)
In the introduction to this volume Roger Gibson talks about his and Danks’ plans for their wonderful comic. Future storylines head for Prisoner style spy action, Victorian ghost mysteries with a hint of Scooby-Dooby-Doo and a grand New York cop adventure. It sounds like it’s going to be great. They also talk online about future publishing plans, for which I’m keeping at least a few fingers crossed. Harker is a highlight of my comic reading and I really, really want it to continue.
So do yourself a favour, get on board Harker now, you’ve only got two volumes to catch up with, and after that you can say you were there all along with the most thrilling, most enjoyable, most entertaining new British comic for a long time. Like I said – it really is an absolute triumph of a comic.