Irene Adler and her cortège of kick-ass crime-fighting ladies of literature must find Ayesha and stop her from releasing the world’s first nuclear bomb on an unsuspecting turn-of-the-century London. One part Steampunk, another part alternative history and all round ripping yarn brought to you by novelist Lavie Tidhar and artist Paul McCaffery, Adler #5 may well bring the curtain down on this particular adventure but the hope is that there are more to come. It’s a book that also bring the curtain down on Victorian England the 19th century and the Empire too. We saw what happened to the arrogance of the British Empire as it was dismantled across the intervening century and with hindsight, Tidhar incorporates these themes into this series, as discussed in last issue’s review here. Just as Sam Peckinpah painted a Wild West all but dead in The Wild Bunch, Tidhar and McCaffrey portray a Great Britain that would never be as great again. But, in Adler, we get a far more beautiful death nell. And, besides, as Irene Adler, Jane Eyre and others here illustrate, the future century would see great things begin to happen for women, even if we still have a long way to go.
And so, once again, alongside the magnificently realised literary figures that make up Adler’s gang of extraordinary women, London also shares top billing too. The centre of Empire, the centre of the world. In its majesty and in the context of this series, London comes across as a grandiose materialisation of Britain’s wealth and standing in the world at that time. The “blood running down palace walls” all but invisible under the pomp and prestige of Empire. Ayesha, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, stands as a colonised country out for revenge. By the end of the 19th century, I imagine there was quite the queue for enemies of the Empire. And, against this backdrop, I can’t help but feel some sympathy with her. Alongside Estella Havisham, Ayesha has been a stand-out star of this series. Truly Amazonian in stature and stance, she is a most formidable and intelligent foe to pit Adler and chums againats and an inspiring choice from Tidhar.
As a final issue goes, Tidhar and McCaffrey have a great deal to do in order to cover all events and conclude this cracking adventure. As well as continue to grip the reader with hyper detailed era-appropriate architecture, character and design work courtesy of the discerning eye of the artist, Tidhar has to provide the pace, the peril and the punch, which they do marvellously well.
It’s a comic book that will evoke find memories of the better produced Hammer House of Horror films of the late 60s/early 70s, or even Malcolm McDowell in Royal Flash (1975). A fondly remembered, but often romanticised vision of the past that doesn’t come without a certain tone of terror, especially as much of this last issue takes place under the cover of darkness.
As for the ending… well, that would be telling. But, even here Tidhar injects one or two last and highly satisfying literary twists in the tale to treat readers to in a series of epilogues that catches us up with some now familiar faces, as well as the odd new face that many will easily recognise. It’s a great crowd pleaser and a great way to end this series.
On a personal note too, Adler canoe out at the start of this pandemic nightmare and inspired me to not only read up on several of its source text, many free to download as they are no longer copyright protected, but also got me to pick up Tidhar’s latest novel, a reworking of the Arthurian legend in By Force Alone. I fell back in love with the classic, as well as Tidhar’s own prose writing, and so now it’s all over and done with, Alder will continue not hold very and memories for me.
If you haven’t picked it up yet, I would keep a close eye on any plans fo the inevitable collected trade paperback. Trust me, I’ll let you all know when that one comes out!
Adler #5 is out now from Titan Comics. And you can read all my reviews of the previous issues here.
Furthermore you can catch may chat with artist Paul McCaffrey here too.