Writer: Neil Gaiman, Rafael Albuquerque, Rafael Scavone
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque, Dave Stewart
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Cover Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
Neil Gaiman’s A Study in Emerald: Holmes Falls To Cthulhu CONTAINS SPOILERS
This fantastical detective mystery has so much more than meets the eye going on.
We start at the beginning of the Sherlock Holmes mythos and Holmes meets John Watson in the world of Baker Street looking for a roommate for the London flat.
The tall Holmes is very familiar, as is the shuffling Dr. Watson.
Yet something is eerily different and out of place too.
That said I read the depiction of Watson’s war injury, from a Cthulhu-like kraken while he was at-sea in the Queen’s Army, and I completely failed to notice the near-standard 19th century sea-monster from the hidden depths of the volatile world was, in fact of the tale, a real Cthulhu.
I had entered a vastly darker Lovecraftian world and it had robbed the good doctor of his crack-shot ability by sucking life out of his shoulder.
This would only come back to me, like a splash of cold water on a sleeping face, at the finale of the grand tale.
In the dark mirrored world of H.P. Lovecraft – that is so close to our own and yet so starkly different and dark – the perpetrators of the tales’ main mystery, the prince’s murder, were never caught.
And though Holmes and Watson do uncover and even meet in-person the two wholly ruthless villains, foils of our heroes, one cannot help but wonder if the murderers – the tall actor and the shuffling doctor with his walking stick and his devious ability to wage medical knowledge as a war on anatomy – if they were not the mirror dimension of some H.P. Lovecraft multiverse: an evil Holmes and Watson!
But then that bears its own questions of good and evil and over-simplicity.
Lovecraft’s fear was sometimes best induced by building a world that reflected our own but just produced physical monsters to encompass real world troubles.
And in A Study in Emerald the Cthulhu beings are a mystery!
The wild one may have forever maimed Watson and yet the leaders of the world and the Queen Victoria of England Cthulhu has gone ahead and healed Watson upon meeting with the sleuths for hire.
The world has been ruled over by Cthulhu figures for hundreds of years.
The dynamic of pre-WWI era tensions – once called The Great War – are very apparent in the story, just in subtle ways.
As Holmes speaks to Inspector Lestrade of possible motive for the Prince Cthulhu’s murder, he talks in admiration of the anarchists: those who see the powerful Cthulhu leaders are feeding off of humanity’s pain.
And the anarchists feel humans are best left to ourselves, where chaos rains.
In the real world, this was indeed a sentiment shared by anarchists around that time.
And the terrorist-anarchist groups committed violent acts that shaped the world and its tension leading up to the first World War.
Back to the tale: a comically round version of Lestrade is exasperated by Sherlock’s blasphemy.
And Holmes, who seemed to know the Queen Cthulhu of England personally, is clearly sided with the crown’s rule and prosperity, despite his understanding of the motive.
This possibly points to Holmes and Watson as being the villains upholding authoritarianism in the tale, while the terrorizing murderers only committed their evil act out of hope for a cause that even Holmes seems to admire as a noble one, if not misplaced with violence.
The question of the age and the foils of the Cthulhu world Holmes and Watson are best left to our imaginations . . . for now.
Unless, of course, Mr. Gaiman and co. takes us back to this bizarre and riveting world again!
Ask your LCS for a copy of this marvelous hardcover from Dark Horse comics; I know Red Shirt Comics will get you one!
“Neil Gaiman’s A Study in Emerald: Holmes Falls To Cthulhu” was written by R.J. Huneke.
“Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini Interview” by R.J. Huneke is the first in a series of articles resulting from our interviews with the creators at New York Comic Con 2017 and discusses the classic mystery graphic novel from Hard Case Crime and Titan Comics.
Cover Art By Robert McGinnis
Based on facts and questions surrounding Harry Houdini’s bizarre death in 1926, Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini is an imbued look into a female private detective taking on a whopper of a first case from long-time Houdini friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The vibrant history, the tenacious protagonist Minky Woodcock, and the stunning aspects of the art make this book a classic.
Impactful surprises, intricate looks into character personalities, and a fully-fledged and almost surreal world is built to exude the many mysteries of the day.
*The following MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS for Minky Woodcock ISSUE 1*
Renowned artist Cynthia von Buhler had me on page one of Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini.
The graphic novel’s first page has two panels: one remarkable overhead shot of Minky at a typewriter CLICK clicking away in a letter to Agatha Christie about their meeting at Minky’s mother’s funeral, which takes up all of the left side of the page, and the sub-panel to the right tying two images top-to-bottom of the funeral and furthering along the letter telling of Ms. Christie knowing Benedick Woodcock, a private investigator and Minky’s father.
The character of Minky is already established as both ambitious and a member of an interesting family and family business.
The sound of the writing implement, the scarlet locks of Minky’s hair, down to her red nails on the keys in such a stark close-up and unique angle are vivid and intriguing, while on the sub-panel a subdued brown and black coloring scheme goes back in the past to the early twentieth century and a sad and poignant funeral.
The art is utterly spell-binding and unique as it emanates the Roaring Twenties and the young woman who graces the next pages with a trench coat, a hint of bare leg, and a flask in her hand, as she still grieves for her lost mother, which had a great impact on her life.
Minky is not content to be a private detective’s secretary (her father’s request) when she can be one herself.
A case presents itself in her father’s absence, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wants Minky to investigate Harry Houdini, and she smartly says that she can take the case without arousing suspicion, which her father – a well-known P.I. – might very well attract.
Doyle aks Minky to join him for a séance with world renowned Margery, who he says is “adept at manifesting spirit ectoplasm from her orifices.”
This is historically accurate, and it is portrayed with all the zeal that a talented nude spiritualist can bring to a séance for society’s high rollers.
What is overlying all of this . . . a piece of tragic history:
On Halloween of all days, October 31, 1926, Harry Houdini died of very mysterious and suspicious circumstances, and though this is not touched on in the first issue, I suspect Ms. von Buhler’s tale does so as it progresses.
The rich depth of Minky and the portrayal of famed author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are posed, depicted and brought to life through an innovative use of art that is invigorating.
I succinctly asked artist Cynthia von Buhler about this:
R.J.H. – ‘I love your style [in this book].’
C.V.B. – ‘I’m doing more drawing it and ink [on paper] and color on the computer . . . this is my drawing style.’
Cynthia added that she was lucky to have Pearls Daily to model for the character of Minky.
C.V.B. – ‘She’s [Pearls is] great because she’s posing . . . she’s like that all the time.’
And with that Pearls, donning her detective’s trenchcoat did a little twist of her leg in a pose on the floor of New York Comic Con after the Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini signing.
Pearls Daily’s acting abilities helped to give life to the vivacious rendition of Minky Woodcock that Cynthia von Buhler puts on the page masterfully, and you can see it from panel to panel throughout the piece as Minky struts into the ritzy home for the séance, as she deftly grasps a martini glass, and as she flees the scene in a tight and curvilinear dress.
What is Minky running from exactly? Her mother’s ghost?
Well I leave that to you, the reader, to find out!
Get down to your local comic book shop and pick up this book, it just came out this week, before it sells out forever.
I will be scouring my LCS, Red Shirt Comics, for whatever variant covers are left on the shelf.
And check out all of the beautiful cover variants. The alternatives are stark in contrast from Charles Ardai’s photograph of Pearls Daily as Minky, to Cynthia von Buhler’s cover, to David Mack’s portrait, and last but not least to a legend that Cynthia spoke on with reverence:
C.V.B. – This cover [she said holding up the cover bearing Margery] is by Robert McGinnis . . . he’s ninety years old and he’s doing this style of painting for years in the James Bond movie posters . . . and it’s such an honor for him to do this cover.
All of the covers are unique and excellent views of the book, and the Robert McGinnis cover seems to pull you to it, as though it were magnetic.
The biggest qualm with this issue is that there is not enough Houdini (though he does pass through a wall briefly). But he is almost certainly lurking not far from Minky’s investigation in the future pages to come.
The hardcover graphic novel for Minky Woodcock is soon to be held!
And in the meantime check out the evidence and real history that was used in creating Minky Woodcock’s tussle with Houdini, Doyle, and the séance craziness of the time at minkywoodcock.com.