Sherlock Holmes vs. Harry Houdini #4

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The inordinate stupidity of Sherlock Holmes and Harry Houdini is finally catching up to them. Last issue, Houdini insisted on pushing forward with his performance, despite everyone around him pointing out what a terrible idea this was. Naturally, the same mysterious figure that was responsible for the onstage tragedy in the first issue struck again. This time, some kind of large glass chandelier or skylight (I honestly have no idea what it was supposed to be) that hung over the stage shattered, killing two people and critically injuring Bess. Who were the two people that were unlucky enough to be onstage when glass rained down upon them? No clue! Just before the disaster occurs, the stage is shown in the background and Bess is the only one on it. Then, when the glass is falling, there are suddenly two men on either side of her. They were never introduced, they were never explained. They spring into existence, and then promptly die.

Oh, and it’s revealed that Rasputin is behind everything… because why not. Also, he’s depicted as having gray hair and wrinkles, despite the fact that he would have only been 31 years old at the time that this comic takes place. But hey, why start getting things right now?

Issue #4 opens with Houdini being thrown in jail. Why? Um, I’m not sure. I think it’s just so he can effect a dramatic escape. Anyway, Lestrade tells him that he’ll soon be deported, while Houdini yells about his wife. Meanwhile, a random police officer standing next to Lestrade on page 2 magically transforms into Watson on page 3! Also, Houdini is naked for this entire sequence. Oh, comic; Cheesecake won’t save you now.

Houdini escapes, of course, and – luckily for the plot – the only officer to notice also happens to work for Rasputin. The officer delivers a riddle to Houdini and tells him that Rasputin has kidnapped Watson and Lestrade. Houdini’s first stop, however, is to see his wife in the hospital. It’s actually a nice moment. Then it’s off to find Holmes.

Holmes is… somewhere. I think it’s supposed to be the burned-out flophouse from Issue 2, but it’s hard to tell. At any rate, Houdini finds him there, wallowing in drugs and guilt. Holmes tells Houdini about another time he was unable to save someone from death – during The Adventure of the Dancing Men. And instantly, I’m reminded that I could be reading actual, good Sherlock Holmes stories instead of this dreck.

It should also be noted that the version of events given in this comic doesn’t quite match up with the original story. Not that that’s any surprise to me anymore. In this new version, Holmes blames himself for not being able to decode the dancing men cipher in time to save his client. In the original story, however, Holmes doesn’t have enough samples of the code at first to properly decipher it. Once he finally acquires more examples of the dancing men, he’s able to translate it in a couple of hours. But the writers of this comic are so hell-bent on making Holmes an emotionally tortured drug addict that they can’t be bothered with details.

One sickening speech from Houdini later (seriously, he tells Holmes that he needs to “be a god again” – ugh!), and the two are off to rescue Watson and Lestrade. They do their best John McClane impressions (okay, that bit was fun), and confront Rasputin.

Hey kids – remember how last issue started with Holmes proving that someone couldn’t be forced into committing suicide via hypnotism? Well, the writers sure don’t, or they don’t care, because apparently it’s been hypnotism the whole time. Rasputin puts the hypnotic whammy on our ostensible heroes, blah, blah, blah, cliffhanger.

This issue is terrible. I can tell that it’s trying on the emotional front, but it ends up falling flat. Houdini was so awful to everyone around him in the previous issues that it’s hard to feel sorry for him now. Holmes, meanwhile, is unrecognizable. And the laziness involved in having it turn out to be hypnotism after all is inexcusable. Those of you who one day wish to have a career writing comics (or any fiction, really) should make a point to pick this series up, as it’s an excellent guide on what not to do. For the rest of you – did you know that all of the original Sherlock Holmes stories are available for free here? Enjoy!

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