Review: Mycroft Holmes: The Apocalypse Handbook

The graphic novel titled Mycroft Holmes: The Apocalypse Handbook collects issues #1-5 of the previously released comic. Co-written by Robert Obstfeld, it is set in the world of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s best-selling Mycroft novel series and expands on the ever popular Sherlock Holmes mythos, only this time the focus is mainly on Mycroft Holmes. Essentially, the main storyline entails Queen Victoria, and a secret British organization, sending Mycroft to America to track down the blueprints of civilization-destroying mechanical weapons all while he continues to take pleasure in his self-destructive ways. It is an extremely enjoyable almost steampunk like story that would be a great choice for anybody who enjoys adventures led by the Holmes brothers.

Abdul-Jabbar has talked before about how he read the Conan Doyle stories during his rookie year and was fascinated with the way that Sherlock could find clues no others could. That said, it was Mycroft and his connections with the highest levels of government that intrigued him. This shines through as character development remains a consistent focus throughout the novel and really does impact the way we read the interactions between them. Sir Conan Arthur Doyle’s Mycroft Holmes is a highly intelligent problem solver who happens to be out of shape and not interested in the field work that would normally be required of the governmental position he somehow holds. Whereas, Abdul-Jabbar’s Mycroft is a hilarious, self-centered, playboy who can and does get his hands dirty when he needs to. In both, his intelligence actually exceeds his younger brother Sherlock’s and each brother suffers from the same level of boredom that comes with such an intelligence. Conveying that intelligence is where the writing is at its strongest. It opens on a philosophical dilemma and has so many literature references I lost count! It would have been nice if they had labeled a certain monster a monster, but overall they were handled wonderfully. The creative uses of Shakespeare was probably my favorite part of the novel! Other notable moments include Lark Adler claiming to be dues ex machina as she quite literally plays that role and Queen Victoria saying that after birthing 9 children she is not afraid of pain. It was nice to see so many strongly written female characters. Additionally, the pacing is nicely balanced with the action remain exciting throughout. As much as the writing was quite intelligent and fun, the illustrations easily stand on their own and occasionally do so. Mycroft’s usual verbosity makes these wordless panels that much more impactful when they come along.

As much as I love the writing, the art is also solid and cohesive across all five issues. Joshua Cassara’s paneling is top-notch and the illustrations have a strong Victorian feel to them. I loved the way that he made the page itself a part of the comic for example, some contained a large image, a solid black or white background, or even the use of sepia tone like pages. This made the novel feel particularly immersive and slowed my reading down so as to not miss these kinds of details. Luis Guerrero’s colors encouraged this as well with color changes being the main indicator of a shift in the story. He also showed a deft hand at when to include cold brightness such as the with the spell breaking brightness of the machinery in action and warm brightness such as with the fires. The lettering that Simon Bowland does is also fun as the sound effects match very well with what one might imagine it would look like. The use of narrative boxes when Mycroft reveals the clues he found were also a nice touch that created the right flow and tone for those moments.

With all that said, it is not a perfect book. There are a couple missteps that I feel I need to mention such as the very imperialistic comment Mycroft makes when he says that the Cheyenne need to learn how to make a “proper English fire.” I can see the character saying something like that, but I don’t see why it needed to be said. Along the same lines, that whole sequence doesn’t make any sense. There is no way for him to see her memories and we know that he can as he states that she had a sarcastic look on her face even when she was a baby. Also, we do get a bit of Moriarty, but it was unnecessary and just felt shoehorned in. Finally, would have liked to have seen some hints to the clues Mycroft seemingly pulled out of nowhere as well because trying to figure things out alongside the hero is part of what makes the detective genre so fun. In the end, none of these things completely ruin the novel for me, so I am willing to give much of this a pass.

This is a funny and fun novel that puts Sherlock’s “smarter cleverer brother” in the spotlight to much success. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar expressed concerns about doing Mycroft justice and, in my opinion, he can put those concerns to rest. If you were waiting for a complete story to pick this one up, now is your time and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Writer: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Raymond Obstfeld
Artists: Joshua Cassara, Luis Guerrero
Publisher: Titan Comics

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