Sherlock Holmes vs Harry Houdini #5 What Just Happened?

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Cover for Sherlock Holmes vs. Harry HoudiniWe’ve finally reached the end of the mediocrity that is Sherlock Holmes vs Harry Houdini. Last issue, as the masochists among you may recall, Rasputin used hypnotism to force Holmes to shoot himself in the head. Sherlock Holmes vs Harry Houdini #5 has Houdini, supposedly on his own now, still the captive of Rasputin, along with Watson and Lestrade. Not that those last two are going to have anything interesting to do all of a sudden. No, they get dragged off elsewhere so that Houdini can be alone for his action sequence.

Rasputin, by the way, is also apparently an amateur handcuff maker, because he slaps a pair of his own design on Houdini. And here’s the kicker – Houdini actually can’t get them off. Yes, you read that right. This comic has Houdini fail at the one thing he is known for. And honestly, I’m not really sure why. The rest of this sequence has him still handcuffed, but it doesn’t seem to impair his ability to do – well – anything, really.

Rasputin then proceeds to hypnotize everybody in the streets below and set off a bunch of bombs, because he’s mad at the British over the Crimean War. A war which took place fifty years earlier, before Rasputin was even born, but he acts like it’s a personal vendetta. Furthermore, England wasn’t the only country involved. Both the Ottoman Empire and France were major players in the war, but for some reason they get a pass. Oh, and Rasputin brings Houdini’s wife Bess down to the mayhem, because he’s eeevvvviiiilll!

Here’s where we get our action sequence, and, as has often been the case in this comic, it’s a confusing one. That’s one of the things that I’ve only touched briefly on throughout this series: the art. If you flip through any of these books, it looks fine, but when you actually read them, you realize that there are problems. People disappear or are exchanged for other characters, objects that are apparently important appear only at the moment that they are revealed to be important, and complicated sequences are nearly impossible to follow.

So what happens here? Well, Houdini smashes the mask of one of Raasputin’s followers… somehow. His hands aren’t quite in the right position for what he’s doing, and from the way it looks in the panel I thought at first that he was breaking a mirror or something over the guy’s face. Then Houdini grabs a knife and appears to slash at the wall, which somehow makes everything go dark. Look, your guess is as good as mine. Rasputin and Houdini fight, and Houdini disables some kind of device on Rasputin’s arm that he later says he had noticed earlier and guessed that it was amplifying his hypnotic powers. I actually looked back at the last issue and sure enough, when Rasputin hypnotized Houdini, there was a flash of light coming from his sleeve. You’d be forgiven for missing it – the only panel in which this light is shown is crowded with three characters instead of focusing on this plot point.

Then, in a twist that will surprise no one, Holmes is revealed to be alive. Yeah, fine. Rasputin’s lair somehow catches fire (did I mention this art is hard to follow?), and our heroes barely escape the exploding film. Because film in this comic doesn’t merely burn – it explodes! Then it’s off to (sort of) save the day, blah blah blah, mutual respect all around.

This comic. Oh, this comic. I have no idea what they were thinking with this series. It won’t appeal to fans of either Sherlock Holmes or Harry Houdini. The base incompetence our “heroes” show throughout the story further ensures that it won’t appeal to anyone in general. And the art just makes things difficult at the worst possible times. Avoid this one.

Sherlock Holmes vs Harry Houdini #5 came out April 22, 2015 from Dynamite Comics.

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