Adler #1 is kind of a nerdfest for anyone who enjoys Victorian literature with such luminaries as Jane Eyre, Estella Havisham, the vampire Carmilla, and even Ayesha from H. Rider Haggard’s She. Writer Lavie Tidhar and artist Paul McCaffrey let the women of these (For better or worse) long enduring late 19th century British novels have just as much fun as the male characters as they engage in shoot outs, witty repartee, and cloak and dagger scheming.
The story begins in the dark, PTSD-inducing imperalist haze of the Second Boer War in South Africa, which establishes Jane as a capable protagonist, who is relegated to the position of nurse even though she does the work of a doctor. While Irene Adler is much more verbose, Jane is a keen observer with McCaffrey giving he quick glances and facial expressions that look like processing or deep thinking. She is a sympathetic POV character and is much more than the sidekick that Adler monologues to as shown by the last several intrigue-filled pages.
Paul McCaffrey has already worked on the comic adaptation of Kim Newman’s fantastic Victorian alternate history novel Anno Dracula (Seriously, it kept me awake on a 10 hour drive from Washington, DC to Louisville, Kentucky.) so cobblestone streets, corsets, cravats, and steampunk blimps come naturally to him. His art is easy to follow and is naturalistic, but a little messed up just like Steve Dillon’s work. McCaffrey’s one weakness is a case of same face with the female characters who aren’t Ayesha, but thankfully, he emphasizes their different hair colors and fashion choices. Carmilla has a Goth thing going for her, Irene Adler is more steampunk, and Estella is an upper class mad scientist. Fashion and costume choice definitely helps establish character in Adler #1.
Another amusing part of Adler #1 is how minimized, and honestly pathetic, the role of the male characters are in the narrative. Irene Adler trolls Moriarty, who comes across as a villain of the week instead of a conniving Big Bad like Andrew Scott’s portrayal in BBC’s Sherlock that had the Internet shrieking every time he was even hinted to appear on the screen. Also, Holmes himself is a non-entity that doesn’t even appear on-panel because he’s too busy chasing rumors of giant hounds on the moors. Instead Adler #1 is about the extreme competence of Irene Adler as well as Jane Eyre trying to find her place in early 20th century England while Ayesha and Carmilla scheme and hint at plots just beginning to unravel.
With more of an emphasis on action, flashy, yet readable visuals, and character personality instead of mystery, Adler #1 is wonderful first course into Lavie Tidhar and Paul McCaffrey’s female-fronted world of Victorian character crossovers. The relationship between Jane and Adler is intrigued, there’s some gunplay, and Tidhar and McCaffrey definitely left me wanting more. Adler is a penny dreadful for the 2020s. I’m looking forward to see the relationship between Jane and Irene Adler develop just as much as the next cool late 19th century/early 20th century female historical figure or literary character cameo.
Story: Lavie Tidhar Art: Paul McCaffrey Letters: Simon Bowland
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.3 Recommendation: Buy
Titan Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review