Everyone knows Sherlock’s story, but what about his older – and apparently smarter -brother Mycroft? How did he become, as is hinted in Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, the head of the British Secret Service? Well, this untold tale is now being revealed by an unlikely source – basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar!
Along with co-writer Raymond Obstfeld, Abdul-Jabbar has penned this Titan comics series to act as a prequel to his recent Mycroft Holmes novel. Taking us back to when Mycroft was an unruly student at Cambridge University, The Apocalypse Handbook sees the young genius handpicked by Queen Victoria herself to go on a globe-trotting mission to stop a threat to the British Empire.
First of all, if you’re a Sherlock Holmes purist, you’ll want to stay away from this comic as, while the writers have clearly used the original Doyle stories as a springboard, they have created something very different in tone and spirit. It’s a high-octane James Bond-esque adventure, full of ultra-violence, nudity and lashings of steampunk.
What The Apocalypse Handbook does capture that is essential to any Holmesian story (whether it focusses on Sherlock or Mycroft) is the intelligence of the protagonist. What’s the point of reading about a Holmes if their USP – their incredible deductive reasoning – is not on display? Thankfully, the narrative is peppered with small moments of detection as well as Sherlock-like mammoth leaps of logic throughout.
The best part about the comic, though, is the characterisation of Mycroft Holmes. Far away from the overweight, sedentary figure of Doyle, Abdul-Jabbar’s Mycroft is not just an adventurer but also an all-round womanizing cad. He’s so sociopathic in his attitude to human life that he makes 007 look like a kitten. Nonetheless, some fascinating flashbacks tease how he – and Sherlock - came to be this way. And, no, there’s not a secret evil sister in sight!
Still, even the finest comic book script would fall apart if it wasn’t matched with some equally talented artwork. There’s no fear of that here, however, as Joshua Cassara illustrates the story with verve and energy. Every panel is rich with detail and he adds a vitality to the action scenes too. A shout out also deserves to be made to colourist Luis Guerrero for his deep and moody colour pallete.
On the whole, Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook is a worthy companion piece to the Mycroft Holmes novel - although it is just as effective on its own terms as well. Thanks to some smart, zippy writing from Abdul-Jabbar and Obstfeld and Cassara’s top-notch art, this graphic novel is a slam dunk (sorry, Kareem, couldn’t resist).
MYCROFT HOLMES AND THE APOCALYPSE HANDBOOK / AUTHORS: KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR, RAYMOND OBSTFELD / ARTISTS: JOSHUA CASSARA, LUIS GUERRERO / PUBLISHER: TITAN COMICS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW