Written by Michael Lent, with art by Dan Parsons, and graphic design by Marc Rene, i, Holmes from Alterna Comics is the latest attempt to expand on the Sherlock Holmes narrative, with the introduction of his fifth generation great granddaughter, I Rose.
But for now issue one avoids the “H” word, making calls to Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic stories, with I’s restless intelligence, and flair for observation, but leaving readers with the advantage when it comes to knowledge of her ancestry. I (and, despite addressing why her first name is an initial early on, that “I” is also a pronoun and Apple product always feels a bit too clever) was left at a church as a baby and grew up in the foster system. Now almost eighteen and going to college, she lives at a youth group home, on probation for hacking ATMs.
The opening scene plays with perspective, switching from a mysterious street tagger (who later becomes our still more mysterious Big Bad) to a man named, Dandy, dressed in a zombie costume for Halloween. He looks like our entry character into the story but it’s a false start to get us to the poker game where the real action is. There it seems strange that we only get access to one player’s thoughts, a man who goes by the moniker, “the Britt.” In retrospect an obvious tell (Sherlock has always had an affinity for disguises) it’s a fun pull over on readers and I fell for it.
After this point, though, the story gets bigger and bigger until I’m still not sure what it wants to be. The antagonist, when he reappears in a leather unicorn mask with balloon bombs, looks great but feels more like a villain of the week on a superhero show than a detective story. It’s not clear whether I is a PI. Smart for smart’s sake, she’s not shown going to class. And she’s somehow mixed up in enough trouble for someone to set-off a bomb to get her attention. The opening line, “Origin story?” is right to close on a question mark. We don’t get a good handle on who I is yet.
This is where the Sherlock association hurts i, Holmes, too, as a lot of early confusion comes from forgetting that that’s what it’s supposed to be—a Holmes story—and then trying to force pieces to fit preconceptions (I’s adviser, Annie, as Watson, perhaps?). Then there’s the little fact that the comic is contending not only with a beloved literary legacy, but a pop culture landscape stock full of modern odes to the character (are I’s observations as striking as Benedict Cumberbatch’s on BBC’s Sherlock?). If the bar is set high, it’s because there’s no end of Sherlock-themed alternatives to turn to.
I, Holmes deserves recognition for trying to bring the tale into 21st century with new twists, and I’m completely behind the recent trend of gender swapping famous franchises, but as a fan who misses the days when Sherlock meant Victorian setting and quippy cases on 221B Baker Street (and less the higher stakes Moriarty outings), I might not be the audience for this action-packed first outing.
Available for download here.