I always admire those who risk their resources by doing something truly creative. It’s even more important in these days of Diamond’s recent changes that make it harder for the ‘little guys’ in the comic book biz to get their work noticed and appreciated by a worldwide audience. So, firstly my hat is off to Gibson and Danks, and the multitude of self-publishers like them. However, apart from all that Harker is genuinely entertaining, and it’s obvious that it’s a labour of love. From writer Roger Gibson’s nice introductions in each issue, that offer an honest peek into the process of creating a comic, to artist Vince Danks’ efforts on the art, which must be time consuming, it all makes this a pleasant change for those raised on a steady diet of spandex soap operas.
Carrying on from the debut issue, Harker #2 continues the look at the British detectives Harker and Critchley (the bald one) as they investigate a gruesome murder on the steps of a church. Last issue left us with a hint that the murder was tied into occult practices, and with this issue we delve deeper into that world. With the discovery of book remnants under the fingernails of the corpse, the two lads search a number of shops for a book entitled The Key of Solomon, but to no avail, until they meet a somewhat shifty man in an occult bookshop, who appears to be hiding something. Then it’s off to the coroner who gives the pair the identity of the murder victim, and the hunt continues.
Montages can sometimes be tricky to pull off in sequential art, but Gibson and Danks do it beautifully here. Harker and Critchley’s book hunting at the beginning of the issue, and their questioning of associates of the deceased towards the end, are both handled well. That may seem like an odd thing to praise, but in a black and white comic, it can sometimes be hard to identify faces and locales. Danks’ photorealistic approach to the art manages to avoid this pitfall though. There’s no confusion as to who is who and exactly what’s happening. With a style similar to that of Dave Sim’s current work on Glamourpuss, it’s simple, but not simplistic.
I couldn’t help but notice the incorrect spelling of “presumably,” but that’s a very minor misstep. The other one would be the differences between the two main characters. Hopefully as the series progresses, they will start to sound less alike. Harker appears to be the more level headed, logical one, while Critchley calls his partner, “guv,’ but other than that the differences are subtle. However, all their dialogue is natural and never awkward, and considering there’s no action in this issue, merely talking heads, that’s vital. Danks does well to make each page look interesting, with suitable detail of interior and exterior locales, instead of a steady stream of close-ups of whoever’s talking. Gibson and Danks are a superb team of creators. The dialogue just rings true in your head. It’s not ‘comic book dialogue,’ but rather it’s filled with the cadence and flow of something more realistic. The TV series comparison is the most obvious one to make, and Harker could easily fit into a late night slot in that format. This is another solid entry in this series and is definitely worth picking up. Gibson and Danks can be proud of what they’ve achieved.
You can order Harker from your local comic shop, or from Ariel Press. If you’re looking for something that stands out from your pile of funnybooks, I’d recommend you do.
And you can read my interview with Gibson and Danks in the latest issue of Extra Sequential here, starting from page 32.
This was a surprise. Definitely not one for the kiddies, Harker is a new series from Ariel Press which follows two unlikely English cops as they delve into a gruesome murder on the steps of a church. Take CSI, peel away all the Hollywood veneer, and throw in a dash of that loveable dry British wit and you’ll come up with this oddly charming tale.
Written by Roger Gibson with art by Vince Danks, Harker is a curiously attractive package. Sure, there’s profanity and spilling gizzards, but it does maintain a sense of quiet anarchy without coming across as pretentious. It’s a clever balance really.
It opens with a brutal stabbing, followed by the discovery of the corpse the next morning. Amidst the disgusted cops and forensics team, steps Harker and Critchley discussing cheese and pickles. They are very much at odds with their fellow police officers, with their casual banter. However, they seem to know a lot and are determined to unearth answers. A quick visit to the autopsy later, where they put the female coroner off balance, and they have enough clues to act on. This leads them to the British Museum, where their unusual social stylings put another female professional out of whack. However, this time Critchley manages to impress the librarian enough to wrangle a date out of her. The pair finally come to the conclusion that they are dealing with a satanic cult. And this new series is off and running with an impressive first salvo.
Since Diamond, the world’s foremost comics distributor, has recently raised their minimum profit for listing books, many small time publishers will struggle to get attention. This is why it’s important to take note of publishers like Ariel Press, and support them. Not wholeheartedly however. Not every independent comics company is producing great material. Ariel appears to be though. Harker fulfills the goal of the creative pair behind it, by being TV on paper. It’s structured well with a great sense of pace and distinguishable characters.
Plus this fanboy noticed the From Hell reference (Alan Moore’s Jack the Ripper epic graphic novel) and also the fact that Critchley looks like fan-fave writer Grant Morrison. Seeing as how the detective duo are slightly based on their creators, that’s a happy coincidence though.
The art has to be mentioned too. Danks does a greta job with the black and white interiors. Fans of Dave Sim’s Glamourpuss MUST get this. With it’s beautifully simple renderings the art just pops. Every charcter looks like an actual person, rather than a generic humanoid, and when Danks puts his skills to the grand English architecture, with fine detail, and wise use of greys, the environment looks just as real as anything Alex Ross does.
Within this new series (of 6 in the first volume) there’s room for further character development, rather than simply being a double act. And more than a novelty. Gibson and Danks show they have what it takes to build upon this intriguing premise though. Hopefully this series will be a consistent breath of fresh air, and carve a niche for itself as an accessible title for readers with a spandex rash, or newbies just looking for a mature, well-crafted tale.
Harker #1 is available for order now, from this month’s Previews, for a March release. Put your order in now at your local comics shop.