Sunday, November 30, 2014

I Reads You Review: WATSON & HOLMES #6

WATSON AND HOLMES #6
NEW PARADIGM STUDIOS – @npstudios

WRITER: Brandon Easton
ARTIST: N. Steve Harris
COLORS: Jay David Ramos
LETTERS: Wilson Ramos, Jr.
COVER: N. Steven Harris with Jay David Ramos
VARIANT COVER: Rick Leonardi with Jay David Ramos
28pp, Color, $3.99 U.S.

Rated T+

Watson & Holmes created by Brandon Perlow and Paul J. Mendoza, inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes”

I first came across Watson & Holmes when the 2014 Glyph Comics Award nominations were announced.  After Watson & Holmes #6 won four of those awards, I decided try the series, especially #6.  By chance, I was visiting a regional comic book store, when I spied a box of comics with a sign on the front that said “.25¢ each.”  I looked through the box and was surprised to find a number of interesting comic books.  That included Watson & Holmes #6, which is produced by writer Brandon Easton, artist N. Steve Harris, colorist Jay David Ramos, and letterer Wilson Ramos, Jr.

New Paradigm Studios' comic book series, Watson & Holmes, is a modern take on  the tales of “Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  The series envisions Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson as Black men in an urban setting, specifically New York City’s famous Harlem district.  By placing them in a modern, American urban landscape, Doyle's legendary detective fiction characters can travel in story directions likely never imagined by Doyle.

In Watson & Holmes, Holmes is no longer the sole central character and shares the spotlight equally with Watson.  Dr. John Watson is now the African-America Dr. Jon Watson, a former para-jumper for the U.S. Air Force and an Afghanistan war veteran.  He currently works in an inner-city clinic helping the less fortunate, while dealing with the financial hardships brought on by a difficult divorce.  The African-American Sherlock Holmes is currently a private investigator and a consultant to the New York Police Department (NYPD).  Obsessive compulsive, Holmes had worked as a programmer for an Internet start-up that failed, which ruined his career.  That led to him becoming a PI.

Watson & Holmes #6 opens at night near the George Washington Bridge in New York City.  The next morning, the bridge is a crime scene when the body of Hazel Wainwright is found.  The NYPD brings Holmes into the investigation because this murder requires a great deal of discretion.  Hazel was the wife of prominent New York City councilman, Dexter “Dex” Wainwright.

Holmes strongly suspects that Dex murdered his wife, but Watson hopes against that, as Wainwright has led the revival of Harlem.  Holmes' research has uncovered the name of Dominique Jiminez, a woman who is somehow connected to both Wainwrights.   Watson and Holmes aren't the only ones looking for Jiminez, a woman who is also connected to a dark underworld.

I don't often come across self-contained, single-issue detective comic books; I rarely come across them as good as Watson & Holmes #6.  Not only is the story good, but it is also riddled with consequence.  Brandon Easton offers a story that is both real in a heartbreaking way and also really relevant.  Easton makes the Wainwrights and Jiminez matter because I cared about their dilemmas and conflicts, and especially their situations in life.

Artist N. Steven Harris has huge upside.  Although his compositions and technique are still developing, his storytelling has a strong sense of drama and makes Watson and Holmes' union and method of working together seem genuine.  Harris' drawings are stylish, defined by a sense of dynamism that permeates each panel.  The colors by Jay David Ramos strike the right tone, suggesting this story's quick pace, without loosing its crime fiction edginess.

I would like to see Brandon Easton and N. Steve Harris work together again, on Watson & Holmes especially.  But I'll take something else... like maybe an creator-owned title.

A

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux


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