Baker Street Four  VolThe Baker Street Four, Vol. 2
Written by J.B. Djian and Olivier LeGrand
drawn by David Etien
116 7.5x10-inch pages, color
2017 Insight Editions

Above all else, this graphic novel is beautifully, exquisitely, drawn. Etien’s pictures are laden with detail, all precisely rendered. His style, for backgrounds, is realistic and copious but linear, not photographic; and the figures and faces verge, slightly — pleasingly — on cartoony. And it’s not all just pretty pictures: it’s comics. The storytelling is excellent: narrative breakdown times the action for dramatic impact as well as clarity; panel composition is dramatic; and page layouts are inventive and varied—and serve the narrative. And most of the action sequences are accomplished without verbal encumbrances.

The volume’s title quickly conjures up for all Sherlockians the master detective himself. Sherlock Holmes lived at 221B Baker Street in London, and he sometimes recruited a few of the street urchins in the neighborhood to gather information that helped him solve cases. The street urchins were dubbed the Baker Street Irregulars. In this book, there are four of them: Billy Fletcher, “Black” Tom of Kliburn (he has black hair), Charlotte “Charlie,” and Watson, a cat. And all the usual suspects from Conan Doyle’s books: Holmes has a small part, Dr. Watson a slightly larger one, and walk-ons by Holmes’ housekeeper Mrs. Hudson and Watson’s wife, plus Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard. But it’s the Baker Street Irregulars’ story.

Two stories, actually. The first is a tumbling tangle of converging plots. A man named Corbett is the owner of the Merry Minstrel music hall; he owes money to Harry Sykes, a racketeer, who sends his agent, Bloody Percy, to collect. Whilst threatening Corbett, Percy makes advances towards Corbett’s comely daughter Grace, a singer in her father’s music hall. Grace has attracted the attention of Lord Neville Asprey, age 19, who has just come into his inheritance and spends his evenings worshiping at the shrine of Grace in the music hall. Holmes is asked to investigate Asprey’s “nocturnal escapades,” and he sends the Baker Street Four (BSF) on this errand. And after that, events fall into a tangle.

At the beginning of the second adventure, we learn that Holmes is dead: Moriarty came after him in Switzerland, and the two struggled and fell into Reichenbach Falls. Both, we fear, dead. (Both, however, survive; but that’s a tale for another day.) Without Holmes to employ them, the BSF break up. Black Tom of Kliburn (whose last name, we learn, is O’Rourke) goes back to Kliburn to rejoin a family of thieves; he meets and falls in love with Kitty. Charlie gets caught pinching a pizza and is sent to a workhouse. Bill Fletcher wanders the streets and eventually encounters Dr. Watson, who takes him under his wing, intending to find Tom and Charlie, too. Meanwhile, Bloody Percy breaks out of jail, vowing to settle the hash of the BSF and Watson and his wife.

The rest of the adventure gets Charlie out of the workhouse, Black Tom out of the burglary ring, and reunites the BSF, including the cat, Watson.

There are at least two other volumes in the Baker Street Four series—Vol.1 and Vol.3, which is just a-borning. Another book, A Study in Feminine Persuasion, is also available at insightcomics.com; it appears, however, to be some sort of revamping of Vol.1. Can’t say for sure, but I’ve sent for Vol.1 in order to enjoy some more the storytelling talent of David Etien. We conclude with samples of his work from the stories we’ve just rehearsed.



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