Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Missing Martian
Sherlock Holmes stories are hard to write. Getting that blend of mystery, adventure, and deduction right, particularly in another period, is tricky. Even more particularly when it comes to comics, since comfortable scenes of friendly interactions between Holmes and Dr. John Watson, or incidents deducing a new client, are conversational, not visual.
I suspect that’s why so many Sherlock Holmes comics, especially those set in the Victorian period, tend to be mashups. Holmes vs. Dracula, or Mr. Hyde, or Lovecraftian demons, or zombies, or steampunk, all have featured. All provide more reason for action, in keeping with common expectations of the comic format, which is strongly turned in the popular imagination towards fantasy.
Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Missing Martian continues in that vein. The newly released collection (from Caliber Comics) reprints a four-issue black-and-white miniseries originally published in 1990 by Eternity/Malibu. It’s written by Doug Murray and illustrated by Topper Helmers.
Set in 1908, it takes place in a London post-War of the Worlds invasion (per H.G. Wells). A Martian war machine captured during the battle is about to go on display at the British Museum in 1908 when it goes missing. Watson is sent to summon Holmes out of retirement to find it, although the good doctor is distracted by his wife Jacqueline’s mental issues.
Flashbacks to Holmes fighting the invasion with Professor Challenger provide action. Watson’s plotline is meant to provide emotional involvement, I think, but it has too little space and is handled too melodramatically to succeed, although it is nice that he was given something to do. Overall, I thought the story was an exciting blend of action and references to classic science fiction.
The reprint doesn’t include the original covers (although part of two of them are on the back cover) or Murray’s author’s notes (about the inspiration behind the series and his co-creators; probably not necessary but I do enjoy the behind-the-scenes glimpses into creative backgrounds). Still, I’m glad Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Missing Martian isn’t moldering in back issue bins. Seeing it on white paper (as opposed to the yellowing back issues I have) made for a fun read.