Monday, July 22, 2013

Adapting Holmes:Baker Street 1-5

Baker Street: Honour Among Punks, consisting of issues 1-5, by Guy Davis & Gary Reed. Caliber Press, March 1989 – January 1990.

Baker Street is a black-and-white comic set in an alternative 1989. It is a world where World War II never happened, and the continuing Victorian values and fashion clash with London’s burgeoning punk subculture. In this setting, we get a Holmesian tale of jewel thefts, deception and diversion.

American medical student Susan Prendergast needs lodgings, and finds them at 112 Baker Street, above a bookstore owned by Mr. Hudson. The rent is free, as long as she cleans up the apartment. This ends up being more than she bargained for. One of Sue’s roommates is Sharon Ford, a former detective inspector, who still works with the police on a consulting basis, when not immersed in the punk scene. The third roommate, another punk named Samantha, does not welcome Sue warmly, but Sam does save her from a beating when Sue decides to attend an underground punk club on her own.

A string of jewel thefts have occurred, all of which coincided with fights among the various gangs of punks. These include the Gothics, the Towers, and the Irregulars (whose headquarters is an old theatre called the Baskervilles). It turns out that Sharon is actually also the Tower gang leader Harlequin. But as we learn at the end of issue 4, she is not the only character we’ve met with a secret identity in the underground.

Is Sharon playing both sides of the legal fence? Has she fallen back into her drug addiction, or even turned to dealing? And what do all of these punk gang fights have to do with jewel thefts anyway? Using her amazing skills of observation and deduction, and a willingness to put her new roommate in peril, Sharon unmasks the thief and brings at least a temporary peace to the punk wars.

There is certainly a lot of story here. These five issue contain nearly 140 pages of story, along with some nice special features. And the writing is dense – not overly wordy, but packed with information and characterization. We get an entire story,from beginning to end, in these five issues, with a hint on the last page of issue 5 that Sharon’s activities have been noted, and that she may indeed have enemies in high places.

I have not read a black-and-white comic in many years, and it is certainly a different experience from the four-color comics I am used to. The detail of the work was readily apparent, and the artist’s ability to differentiate the many characters without the help of color was an accomplishment. The handwritten text boxes were difficult to read, although they did give the book a “diary” sort of feel. To be fair, I don’t recall have trouble reading this text when I first ran across this series 20+ years ago.

This comic ran ten issues, and the second arc (“Children of the Night’) is contained in the last five issues, which I expect I will review at some point in the near future.

Source: My own collection. I am almost certain that I bought these as they came out, and I would guess it was from Dave’s Comics, in Richmond, Virginia.

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