Sherlock Holmes is a classics literary institution; one which The Baker Street Four takes and re-imagines through the eyes of the children involved in Holmes’ cases. The portrayal of Victorian London is immaculate, and the joy of recognising particular landmarks – coupled with a sense of some historical accuracy – gives the book a certain charm especially when combined with the nostalgic child-driven plot.
The first scene in the book takes place with no dialogue, allowing the reader to gain a sense of the world that surrounds initial protagonists Tom, Billy, and Charlie. Sherlock Holmes is also introduced in that first scene and flits in and out of the story as he interacts with the Baker Street Four, remaining firmly in the background of the narrative. This opening volume contains two stories, one centring on the kidnapping of Tom’s girlfriend Betty and the second based around Russian Communism.
Although containing some darker themes about Victorian life the stories remain generally positive, likely due to the fact that they are viewed through the lens of a child. These two tales are far more adventure-focused than mystery-focused and are reminiscent of a mix of Dickens and possibly Enid Blyton adventure stories.
As well as having extremely gorgeous detail in the backgrounds the comic contains rich atmospheric colouring. Within buildings the light is generally more orange as a result of the candlelight. It gives the comic a sense of warmth despite taking place within the vast depths of London. Cooler colours are used within the outside scenes, especially in relation to later times of day providing a sense of the perpetual Victorian winter concept as well as expressing the idea that the outside remains more mysterious and unsafe. Big action scenes never break into page spreads, giving a feeling of motion and movement within the story.
Despite the high stakes situations the Four get into, there’s still time for character development. Throughout we continue to discover more about our characters, particularly Charlie and Tom. This is shown a little through how Tom and Billy interact (they argue a fair amount), giving them a far more complex relationship than children tend to retain within narratives. This could of course be a result of the experiences they share as a group, as they do tend towards the life-threatening.
There are a fair amount of fight scenes within the narrative. It’s a testament to the artist’s skill that these remain clear as well as action-packed despite the detailed backgrounds. The first volume remains fairly introductory. However, there is an underlying sense that the story will take into account the intricacies of Holmes’ canon and portray some of those stories through the Baker Street Four, which will be interesting to see.
Overall this is a comic that retains a whimsical and homely feeling. It draws you into the characters and their world forcing you to understand the characters’ emotions throughout the situations they find themselves in.
J.B. Djian and Olivier Legrand (W), David Etien (A) • Insight Comics, $16.99
Review by Holly Raidl