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Comic Book Review

Book Cover

Adler #1


Writer: Lavie Tidhar
Artist: Paul McCaffrey
Publisher: Titan Comics
RRP: UK £2.65, US $3.99
Age: 15+
32 pages
Publication Date: 05 February 2020

For Sherlock Holmes, there was only ever one woman – now Irene Adler is on a mission to take down his arch nemesis, Professor Moriarty! It’s the League of Extraordinary Gentlewomen, as Adler teams up with a host of famous female faces from science, history and literature to defeat the greatest criminal mastermind of all time…!

Titan’s publicity makes no secret of the fact that this new take on the character of Irene Adler (who originally appeared in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes short story, A Scandal in Bohemia) is basically a female version of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The fictional universe that writer Lavie Tidhar curates is predominantly Sherlockian, with, in addition to Adler herself, the great detective being mentioned and Professor James Moriarty and his second-in-command Colonel Sebastian Moran playing significant roles in the proceedings. However, Tidhar also throws in characters from other works of fiction, including Carmilla the vampire from the 1872 Gothic novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and Ayesha, ‘She-who-must-be-obeyed’, from H. Rider Haggard’s 1886 novel She: A History of Adventure.

Perhaps the most surprising inclusions are Charlotte Brontë’s heroine Jane Eyre and Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, both of whom are about fifty years after their time in this tale set in 1902. (It’s also true that Moriarty is alive and well a decade after the events of The Final Problem, but that’s OK, because The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen established that he survived his scuffle with Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls.)

Jane is additionally recast as a war hero, having served as a nurse in the Boer War. She is our route into the story, as she is introduced by Lady Havisham to Irene Adler, who needs someone to share her lodgings and who surprises the young woman by deducing that Jane has been in battle and has only recently arrived in London. Adler warns Jane that she keeps unorthodox hours, plays the piano – not the violin – practices knife throwing when working through a problem, and prefers coffee to tea, as she finds that tea addles the senses. In other words, Tidhar retells the first meeting between Dr John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet, but with gender-swapped characters. And there are plenty more Easter eggs for fans of vintage fiction to look out for.

Paul McCaffrey’s art is reminiscent of Bryan Talbot and Glenn Fabry – detailed, with an equal fascination for beauty and ugliness, if sometimes a little static during action sequences.

The ending of this first episode is rather low-key, but that hasn’t stopped me from wanting to revisit this vivid world in future issues.


Richard McGinlay

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