Written by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Raymond Obstfeld | Art by Joshua Cassara | Published by Titan Comics
This has been a great book so far, and initially surprising on two levels. One, it is co-written by basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Two, it stars Mycroft Holmes, not a seemingly natural choice for the star of his own book. That initial surprise though has been replaced by pleasure. Pleasure in that Abdul-Jabbar has crafted a genuinely fun, rip-roaring adventure so far, and that he has made Mycroft Holmes an interesting and sympathetic lead by pointing out at every turn that he is not Sherlock Holmes, and is all the more interesting for it.
A lot has already gone on, too much to recap in depth, but essentially Mycroft is on a mission personally requested by Queen Victoria, to find The Apocalypse Handbook before it falls into the wrong hands. It contains working blueprints for steampunk weapons of mass destruction, and time is running short. The book is being held by the mysterious Mr. Mason, a man so bad he sews the mouths together of his servants and companions so they can’t betray him. Mycroft has pitched up in the United States, with formidable cowgirl and bounty hunter Lark Adler helping, where his quest has lead him on to a train currently being robbed by none other than Jesse James himself.
Jesse takes Mycroft and Lark back to their hideout, where after a tense conversation with brother Frank James, they let on that they need some papers stolen in a recent mail heist by the James gang. They are given permission to search the stolen mail, in return for a sizeable payment of course. As Mycroft and Lark plough through the huge pile of mail bags we learn a little more of Lark Adler, her bravado hiding something of a tragic back story.
Mycroft is not really one for too much sympathy, and tells her that he knows that although she is a bounty hunter supposedly working for him and the Queen, he also surmises she is an American agent working for the United States government under cover. He also gives away why he, as a very intelligent and clever man, lives the lifestyle he does, of drinking, gambling and ‘the passionate company of energetic women’. To avoid boredom. When you are as smart as Mycroft, everyday life can be crushingly boring, predictable, the same day after day. His search to alleviate that boredom leads him down certain paths, unlike his brother Sherlock who seemingly internalises and harnesses that frustration into his cold, analytical personality. Mycroft uses his emotions to help him live, Sherlock suppresses his for the same reasons. A perfect explanation of the brothers differences, in a fantastically well written scene.
The getting to know each other comes to an abrupt halt, as Frank James has decided he wants to get in on the weapons deal, and plans to kill Mycroft and Lark if they don’t find the plans within the hour. Mycroft isn’t too worried, especially as he works out four escape plans within a minute and, oh yes, had actually found the plans within ten minutes of searching. All the rest of the time had been to observe Lark. Maybe he’s not quite as different from Sherlock as he thinks. A quick escape sees them hiding in the gang’s toilet, not a great spot I’m sure, and another little glimpse into Mycroft’s past as he remembers back to a failed marriage. One hot bath later, and one kidnapped little girl whom they must exchange the blueprints for or she’ll be killed, and we are ready for the final showdown next issue.
Another fantastic issue, with superb dialogue especially, and some wonderful insights into the character of Mycroft. There seemed to be enough packed into here to fill two issues, and none of it was filler. All of it was important to the story and the characters, and it read like a treat. The art by Joshua Cassara was also fantastic, perfectly suited to the story being told. A very dense narrative was made easy to follow by great layouts, and well-rendered, lovely to look at panels which managed to incorporate a lot of detail yet not look at all cluttered.
One of the sleeper hits of the year for me, a tremendous book.
Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook #4 is released on December 21st, courtesy of Titan Comics