Thursday, June 07, 2007

A Case of Blind Fear #1

A Case of Blind Fear #1, January 1989, Eternity Comics
writer: Martin Powell
artist: Seppo Makinen
letterer: Patrick Brosseau

Few characters have held the proverbial heavyweight title for any given genre of literature as long as Sherlock Holmes has for detective fiction. Just Odysseus set a standard for Joseph Campbell's definition of a hero, Doyle's consulting detective established an archetype for gumshoes that has stood the test of time, inspiring modern incarnations like the abrasive House (whose street address is 221, for crying out loud) and Detective Goren from Law & Order: Criminal Intent. I've been a fan of Holmes since I discovered the television series starring Jeremy Brett on A&E fifteen years ago, coincidentally around the time I began avidly and proactively collecting comics. The two events weren't exclusive, and in fact Doyle's descriptive stories painted such vivid mental pictures (expertly adapted by Brett and co.) that I instantly categorized Holmes alongside Cloak, Dagger, and Anarky as one of my favorite urban avengers. Complete with a sidekick, a forsaken romantic interest, and a macabre roster of rogues, Sherlock Holmes is the closest turn of the century prose came to superheroes before Superman's enigmatic debut.

Eternity's A Case of Blind Fear is the sequel to their Scarlet in Gaslight miniseries, in which Holmes faced Dracula -- and while I'm not sure if that conflict was an inevitability, the timeless characters' mutual need for humanity is an interesting contrast, one via information, the other via, uhm, blood. In this miniseries, Holmes is up against the Invisible Man, though in this first issue he doesn't know it yet, as the pieces to this particular three-pipe problem just begin to fall into place. While I can sense that writer Martin Powell is attempting to balance and blend the tones of Doyle and Wells into a synthetic adventure, his effort leans more toward the Invisible Man's ruthless desperation than Holmes' calculative coolness. In fact, as a fan of the calloused Holmes, whose affections for Watson, Ms. Hudson, and even Inspector Lestrade are suppressed in favor objective analysis, I was put off by the detective's vulnerability at Powell's hand. What made the Holmes/Watson relationship so endearing was the former's few genuine claims of affection for the latter, making those real moments potent and more effective, but in this issue Holmes confesses a "need" for Watson at least five times, which smacks of their tongue-in-cheek ties in the film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. (If you haven't seen it and you dig Holmes, do. It's on AMC from time to time.) I understand Powell sought to foreshadow Watson's significance to the story, as the Invincible Man blackmails the good doctor to help him find a cure, but the emotional dependence was frankly uncharacteristic. Further, the inclusion of Irene Adler is wasted effort. Again, her role as the woman rings true thanks solely to her cameo appearance in Holmesian lore. Basically, A Case of Blind Fear has the heart of a worthy Sherlock Holmes epic, but I think some of its elements should have remained just as invisible as its antagonist.

Interestingly, Sherlock Holmes, Wells' the Invisible, and Dracula were all penned around the same time, which makes their respective confrontations more inevitable than I actually thought, and further, since these crossovers are chronologically possible, they're all the more relevant and exciting for literary and plain old comic book fans, as these tales are genre crossovers, as well. Does contemporary entertainment have such archetypal characters that would inspire similarly enthralling crossover events? Would a character out of Grisham ever encounter a character out of Stephen King? If you ask me, the lack of vitality and versatility in modern literature is the real mystery.

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