Review: ‘Harker – The Black Hound Part 1’ – The Marvellous Murder Mysteries Continue
by Richard Bruton
The second Harker storyline from Roger Gibson and Vincent Danks is ever bit as good as the first – it’s still the finest police procedural you can read in comics. Full of sparkling dialogue, genuinely funny, beautiful to look at – you can’t get much better than this.
The third volume of the excellent Brit crime drama takes us to the gothic realms of darkest Whitby, where poor old DCI Harker just wants a bit of time away from the murders and mysterious deaths. Trouble is, they do seem to follow him around.
Well, I’ve banged on and on and on and on about Roger Gibson and Vincent Danks’ Harker for many years, in all of its many publishing ventures. The latest version, from Time Bomb, is splitting each tale of strange deaths and exquisitely told coppering across two volumes. And after you all read the first couple (you did, right?) you’ll be well aware of what a thoroughly enjoyable comic series Harker is. I’ve said it many, many times by now, through the self-published comics, the self-published collections, the Titan collections and now the Time Bomb collections, but this really is the finest police procedural in comics you’ll ever find.
It oh so really is.
And now, time for the next bit of brilliance as Harker and Critchley take the show on the road to Whitby in the first part of The Black Hound.
By now, you’ll know the dramatis personae; DCI Harker – grizzled, grumpy, absolute genius at solving the tricky, weird ones, his put-upon, annoyingly cheery (especially to Harker,) Detective Sergeant, Critchley, their favourite pathologist, Griffin, all up on the glorious seaside town of Whitby.
Trouble is, it wasn’t meant to be a bringing the band back together sort of thing. It was meant to be Harker on his own, gloriously on his own, as he’s off on his much-needed, much looked-forward-to holiday. (And yes, he’s got relatives up there in the famous cemetery overlooking the town – just one of those fascinating little things that Gibson’s thrown into this.)
If Harker gets his way, there’s no mystery, no deaths, no crime, no work… nothing but him on holiday, finishing a wonderful day in the hotel bar…
It’s really as far from the grumpy, miserable, sarcastic Harker we’ve come to know and love as you can get. And it’s so wonderful!
But Harker’s quiet holiday is about to go very, very wrong. First there’s that annoying crime writer woman disturbing his evening pint, part of an even more annoying murder mystery weekend. And then, to make matters worse, the annoying crime writer gets very annoyingly murdered.
And Gibson and Danks are on top form from the off, every single moment of annoyance from Harker just pitch-perfect. Even from behind a newspaper…
“Some bloody holiday this is. Chatted up by a hag, two corpses, no decent breakfast…
And the weather’s taking a turn for the worst. Maybe if I make a run for it now, no-one will notice. Especially in this fog.”
“No, let’s fact it, Critchley would find me. And then he’d have a go at me and make me feel guilty. Again.”
He’s trying so desperately to avoid being drawn into it, but everything seems to be conspiring against him. Which is why both Critchley and Griffin are up here, much to the annoyance of the extremely pissed off DI Barnett, the local plod who’s none too happy having “Scotland Yard sticking their noses in here where they’re not needed.”
As for Harker, he’s strangely nowhere to be found… he’s got better things to be doing after all…
Right then, that’s pretty much all of the plot you need from it. In the rest of this first volume, you’ll see more murders, Harker finally putting his foot down, trouble on the moors, and a big bloody dog to deal with… why, one might even describe it as a hound.
It’s a glorious read is Harker, with this second storyline continuing everything wonderful that I told you about with the first volume, The Book Of Solomon– and you can read my fullsome praise of that here and here.
Having it split into two books for each storyline merely adds to the episodic sense of it all, emphasising how much like the best TV police procedural it really is. The storylines Gibson comes up with are always inventive and interesting certainly, but the joy of Harker really comes from the characters, the interplay, the dialogue, and certainly from Danks’ artwork, again here with the addition of Andrew Richmond’s excellent colouring job.
Danks’ art, like I’ve said the moment I first saw it, is simply stunning. His linework, his architecture, his character work, body language, his comedic timing – it’s all just superb. But then again, you can see all that from the examples on this page, can’t you?
The first volume here is absolutely packed with moments that just work. Gibson and Danks make such a perfect pairing, the synergy between writer and artist just sparkles. Yes, it’s a magnificent police procedural for sure, but it’s the interactions between all the characters that brings it all to life, gloriously and wonderfully. And it’s not just Harker and Critchley either, Gibson and Danks are so generous with their characters, giving everyone in the comic some wonderful lines, the dialogue just sparkling throughout.
So, we’ll end this one with my highest recommendation to you. It really is a comic that will make your day so much better and it’s something I’ll regularly re-read, one of the best of its kind.
Harker – The Black Hound Part 1 (Volume 3 of the Harker series) – written and lettered by Roger Gibson, art by Vincent Danks, colours by Andrew Richmond.
The Harker series is available through the Time Bomb website. And we will, of course, tell you all about it when the next book comes to Kickstarter later in 2022!
And finally, just a few of the moments from all the cast of characters to show you the skills of all involved…
Harker being Harker…
Critchley and Griffin: “I get sent all the way up here to look after Laurel and bloody Hardy” – such a great line in a book full of them.
And more from Griffin…
And finally, the money shot… the team back together…