Fear & Loathing in Baker Street
I love literary revisionism and new takes on old ideas and characters. Philip José Farmer played delightfully with the Tarzan and Doc Savage mythologies for many years. More authors than I can count have tinkered with Sherlock Holmes, and as a lifelong, diehard Sherlockian, I’ve enjoyed many alternative interpretations of the great detective. So when I heard that someone had produced a gonzo Holmes and Watson, twisting them into a Ralph Steadmanesque Victorian era graphic novel, I thought, cool, neat idea. Well, I just read Omaha Perez’s Holmes, released last month by indie publisher AiT/Planet Lar in
The artwork is horrible. Perez is a damn fine illustrator. The book’s cover and the illustrations that front each of the four chapters (the covers for the original four-issue mini-series) are drawn in a terrific “scratchboard” style, as is a brief hallucinatory section of the novel. But the remainder of the book is atrociously illustrated. As Perez himself admits in an afterword, “A number of times at convention appearances I have been asked, ‘Why didn’t you do the interiors the same way you did the covers?’ As great as that would be, the answer is I could never possibly finish the book. … My goal for the interior work on Holmes was for it to be ‘passable’ — to not suck. I don’t think I quite hit that modest goal.” That’s certainly true, and the book suffers badly.
As for the story, Holmes is a case of poor execution of a good idea. What should be funny is, well, not. At all. Perez seems self-conscious, trying much too hard to mimic the likes of Hunter S. Thompson. But where there was always purpose to Thompson’s madness, there is no real direction to Holmes. It offers a ride not worth taking.