Review by Ian Keogh
The introduction of Simon Archard and Emma Bishop in Enter the Detective was well plotted and well drawn period crime drama. Archard is Partington’s premier detective, arrogant and patronising, yet able to solve crimes from his armchair that have the police puzzled. He’s not exactly liked, but certainly respected. When it comes to detection in this Edwardian world Emma’s not far off Archard’s equal, and in other ways she’s ahead of him.
Archard’s arch-enemy and former partner Lightbourne was introduced in the previous book. He’s Moriarty to Archard’s Holmes, and the focus becomes tracking him down. When the only clue hints at a gypsy community now halfway across the country, a train journey is the fastest option of the era, and, as the cover displays, it’s been predicted and Archard has become a target. Mark Waid’s amusing plot again features hints of the exotic among the detection
As previously, Butch Guice’s art convinces with the period setting, provides a decorative elegance to proceedings and characterises the cast well. His method of telling the story across two page spreads is far more problematical in this book, however, as both art and dialogue on occasion slip into the central binding. While an artistic choice applied to the original comic serialisation, the unintentional result in graphic novel format is unsatisfactory.
The concerns about Lightbourne occupy the entire book, and the full story of his rivalry with Archard is disclosed in the penultimate chapter, this illustrated by Paul Ryan, but there is a slight downside from the midway point. Waid’s plot continues, but scripted by Scott Beatty, who doesn’t quite possess the same lightness of touch. While he hits the right notes with Archard’s condescending manner, the plot lapses into melodrama, albeit a Victorian tradition, and the wit and subtlety that characterised Enter the Detective have evaporated. This opens well, and is never poor, but lapses to average.
The reader still interested has two options. They can source the individual comics, now written by Beatty, that continue the series over a further fourteen issues, most of which are drawn by Guice, or look out for The Victorian Guide to Murder, which sees Waid back on the feature several years later.