By Roger Gibson and Vince Danks
I got an email through from Titan Books recently asking if I fancied having a look at this new book called Harker which had been really successful and critically praised when it was a self published comic. Well, if you’ve been following the blog here for any length of time you’ll possibly be familiar with Gibson and Danks’ Harker. And probably because I simply wouldn’t stop going on and on about it. So really, it should be no surprise to find that I’m wholeheartedly behind this new Titan edition.
I first got hold of issues 1&2 very shortly after Gibson and Danks self published issue 2, and absolutely fell for it. A lot. This much in fact….
“This is one of those books that I knew I was going to enjoy within the first ten pages. It had that feel of a great genre work, grabbing you and taking you exactly where you wanted it to go. Every page had something on it that pressed the right buttons for the bit of my brain that goes silly over great genre stuff. A little bit Sherlock Holmes, a little bit X-Files, CSI, it’s all these and so much more. But most importantly it gave me that immediacy that is incredibly rare, that feeling within the first few pages that this was going to be something special, and by the end of issue 2, it still felt like that – a hugely entertaining comic.“
And as it went on, issue by issue; 3&4,5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and up to the self published collections The Book Of Solomon (#1-6) and The Woman In Black (#7-12) I kept telling you how great this series was, how much you’d enjoy it as well.
“A great detective thriller with intriguing story, wonderful art, cracking dialogue and moments of out and out comedy … an absolute triumph of a comic.”
Yep, can’t argue with me there. Here’s a very Harker moment from Harker:
That’s covering most of the bases; DS Critchley (bald, black suit, cheery demeanour) and DCI Harker (taking miserable grouch to a new level), lovely cars, even lovelier artwork from Danks, nice figure work, sumptuous backgrounds when necessary. Crackling dialogue between the main cast, humour that makes me laugh every time.
Simple test – If you like that, you’re going to adore Harker the book. If you’re not certain, don’t worry, there’s even better to come.
So here we go, after much delay whilst getting the contract stuff sorted, we finally have the release for the Harker hardback series, that includes both previously published volumes and a third, completely new volume. It’s a huge pleasure to report that Titan have done a marvellous job of repackaging the comic, in a simply stylish, nicely understated fashion. The art by Vincent Danks is perfectly crisp and I’ll still stand by the early comparison to Gerhard – Danks really does do beautiful architecture, holding back on the backgrounds where the figure work is what counts and then suddenly opening up, quite breathtakingly at times when necessary.
Early on you meet grumpy, eccentric DCI Harker, and his comedy sidekick, the equally eccentric DS Critchley (similarities to Gibson and Danks are completely uncoincidental). Called in as multiple murder specialists when a series of gruesome murders take place near the British Museum, all the clues seem to point to something surburban, middle-class, and satannic, or at least that’s what DS Critchley thinks. Harker’s less convinced, something he takes great pains to point out to poor Critchley, suffering yet another dressing down (a regular feature of their relationship):
And that page above, the last of six beautifully realised full-pagers set in the pub, is the moment it truly became something great. That was in issue 3. Before then Gibson had been delivering something merely great, but there was a slight tension about it, something a touch restrained. But here, with the third issue, he seemed to finally relax, allowing the cast to find their real voices, and suddenly we’re into the realms of simple brilliance.
Following that, everything seemed to flow that little smoother, the dialogue crackled a little more, the comedy was perfectly timed, the action sequences worked, the case flew by.
Oh, it was, it is, a rare, rare treat of a comic this. And now you all have a chance to experience it once more.
I shall leave you with something that made me laugh out loud once more reading through this Titan Books edition. And just thinking of it once more has me beaming, as Harker cynically points out that there’s nothing suspicious, untoward or mysterious going on in the case, no spooks, no satanists, nothing that plain good old fashioned policing won’t solve.
And then the door swings open behind him….. “Er…. Guv?”
And it just goes on, and on, Gibson piling on the comedy…..
….. and then adding more… and more….. and more…..
Isn’t that just brilliant? And there’s much more like it in Harker. Join me?
In the end, there’s not that much I can add to all the words I’ve already written on the comic, and little new art to show you extra to what you’ve seen already.
But it was certainly a pleasure to revisit an old friend here, and it’s lost none of its considerable charm, wit, or readability. That was one of the key things about Harker, the thing that really set it apart from the rest, not the great plotting, not the great art (although of course, both are present), but the sheer can’t tear yourself away, can’t put it down-ness, the absolute easy readability of it. This is just a perfectly done bit of genre goodness, a classic example of how mainstream comics should be.
Hopefully this Titan Books edition means even more of you will be able to share in my enjoyment of a comic that’s still a huge favourite; clever, thrilling, beautiful, funny, pretty much everything I want from a perfectly done genre piece.
Harker: The Book Of Solomon is released from Titan Books on the 17th August.