Reviewing ‘Harker Book 2: The Book Of Solomon (Part Two)’ – More Essential Police Procedural Brilliance
by Richard Bruton
Brilliant when I read it years ago, just as brilliant now that it’s in colour, Roger Gibson and Vincent Danks’ Harker is just the finest police procedural you’re ever going to read. A dazzling display of sparkling dialogue, intense action, and just the right smattering of perfectly pitched comedy along the way. You can’t do better than Harker.
Harker, by Roger Gibson & Vincent Danks is, according to the quote on the back cover on Book 1:
A great detective thriller with an intriguing story, wonderful art, cracking dialogue and moments of out and out comedy… an absolute triumph of a comic.
I’m not disagreeing. It’s my name on the quote after all.
And no surprise at all, as much as I loved Harker Book One – The Book Of Solomon Part One (and I did), the finale to the storyline is just as good, ramping up the procedural goodness, speeding along to a climactic ending that’s as thrilling and as fast-paced as you want it to be!
It’s got all of the stuff you should have been enjoying in Book One, all the cracking dialogue, all the interesting stuff between Harker and Critchley, all the weirdness of the investigation…
But to open up, we get Harker in a bad, bad, bad mood… and it’s quite brilliant…
Yep, bloody owls.
And from there it’s on and on with the fun, the crackle between Harker and Critchley just gets better and better the further into it all Gibson gets with the characters, and the art, well, Danks’ art just shines so bright here, with Andrew Richmond’s colours not taking away a thing from Danks’ richness of line and wonderful detailing.
Oh yes, maybe you need to know just where we are in all this, seeing as this second Harker book picks up halfway through Harker and Critchley’s investigation…
In part one of The Book Of Solomon, we met grumpy old DCI Harker and his put-upon bag-man DS Critchley, specialists in multiple (or just plain weird) homicides. They’ve been called in to investigate something particularly nasty, a disembowelled corpse just around the corner from the British Museum.
The corpse is Peter Dermot, Harley Street doctor, who just happens to have a whole Satanic Cult practising under his house, a cult he’d been the leader of. Needless to say, Harker is none too happy to be dealing with these muppets, convinced it’s way, way simpler than the Satanists, black magic, and demonic worship angle that Critchley wants to pursue.
Okay then, you’re all caught up.
After all that intro, all that fun back-and-forth between Harker and Critchley, it seems there’s a lot more to what’s going on with the Cult than anyone thought. And from that moment, it all accelerates, racing on and on to the finale, with Gibson and Danks putting in set-piece after set-piece, beautifully done things, full of action and excitement and all that wonderful sparkling dialogue that Harker‘s just chock full of… like this, when they turn up a secret passageway in one of the suspect’s houses…
It’s the look on Harker’s face with the “I blame Dennis Wheatley for all this. Well, him and Christopher Lee, anyway,” that gets me every time I read this.
And of course, there’s the whole triple-panel of things going on over Harker’s shoulder as he’s talking to camera. Brilliant stuff.
And then there’s all the stuff when Harker and Critchley head off down to the depths… with Critchley’s “I think he could be Batman” line a particular favourite moment…
Down and down we go… “Does Batman need planning permission?”
It’s your perfect combination of a writer brilliantly exploring things, telling what is, to be fair, a pretty standard sort of Inspector Morse like procedural, but making it come alive with the interactions between the characters, and an artist absolutely nailing every little moment of those interactions… that’s exactly what makes Harker shine so bright for me.
It was never about the storyline, like I say, that’s a pretty simple story that we’ve all seen variations of in various police procedurals over the years. No, the brilliance of Harker comes from the way Gibson and Danks, and Richmond’s colours, putting everything together here – and dammit, if you don’t read this through and find your heart racing just that little bit as you head off to the ending, then you’re a colder fish than I am.
Yep, the ending. As the investigation gets closer and closer to the murderer, things get faster and faster, the pace of Gibson’s storytelling accelerating, Danks’ artwork picking up all the tension so perfectly.
Y’know, like this, as Harker decides to take the investigation a step further and goes off on his own…
Faster and faster we go, Harker on his own, a killer on the loose and tracking him down. Critchley racing to get to him in time. And the killer getting closer and closer and closer.
Boom. We get this…
Oh yes. Harker is an absolute masterclass of pacing, a masterclass of taking the simple police procedural and making it fly.
Gibson and Danks’ Harker was fabulous that first time around when I was reading it in those single, self-published issues. And it’s just as fabulous now that I’m reading it all over again in this new collected version. It’s still the perfect example of how comics can work so well in so many different genres, just as long as the creative teams involved are on the top of their game. And Roger Gibson and Vincent Danks were always on top of their game with Harker. Andrew Richmond’s colours add another level of wow to it all, for sure, but at the heart of it, this is still a magnificent piece of genre comics work, the sort of comics we need more of, a wonderful thing, as exciting and thrilling and entertaining now as it was when I first read it.
Seriously folks, you need things like Harker in your life. It’s just the best in its field. And I cannot wait to tell you about the next Kickstarter for the next Harker book, as Harker and Critchley head to Whitby for goths, football, and more murders in The Woman In Black.
You can (and should) get hold of Harker Book Two from good comic shops and from the Time Bomb shop.
Harker Book Two – The Book Of Solomon – Part Two
Writer and letters by Roger Gibson, art by Vincent Danks, colours by Andrew Richmond. Published by Time Bomb Comics