By Marty Mulrooney
Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes vs Zombies is a graphic novel written by Ian Edgington with artwork by Tom Mandrake. Originally published as a six-issue mini-series, it offers a mash-up of genres, pitting classic literary figure Sherlock Holmes and his trusty sidekick Watson against a zombie outbreak – and their old nemesis Professor Moriarty – in 1898 London.
Zombies seem to have come back in fashion recently, with The Walking Dead comics and TV adaptation receiving rave reviews, video game Dead Rising 2 setting delighted players loose in a zombie-infested shopping mall and Steve Hockensmith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies becoming a New York Times bestseller. It therefore must have seemed a no-brainer when WildStorm (a publishing imprint of DC Comics) commissioned Victorian Undead.
First impressions are promising. The artwork is detailed and vivid, with the initial zombie attacks illustrated with style. The way the story is brought together also proves pleasing at first, with Holmes and Watson battling a robotic recreation of Moriarty before getting involved with the zombie outbreak itself. Yet it isn’t long before the plot begins to unravel.
There is certainly an element of silliness to the story that has to be swallowed before continuing to read onwards. Somewhat surprisingly, the idea of a zombie outbreak seems far more likely and believable (even during Victorian times) than Moriarty creating robot versions of himself, or even worse, having his dead body injected with the zombie disease yet still managing to hold onto his personality and mentality. The decision to offer a definitive source of the outbreak also seemed entirely unnecessary.
What follows is a display of mere competence across the board. The artwork, although detailed as previously noted, lacks character at times and can be slightly too bright and colourful for the story being told. Furthermore, the text often points out the obvious with on-the-nose dialogue, most speech bubbles ending in an exclamation mark. There is very little to distinguish one character from the next either. Indeed, they are all just pawns in a story that quite literally becomes overrun with zombies. And, much like these zombies, Victorian Undead lumbers and groans.
That isn’t to say there isn’t enjoyment to be had from reading Victorian Undead. Rather, it is merely a good graphic novel when it could have been an excellent one. This should have been a Sherlock Holmes story featuring zombies, not the other way around. Sadly, there is not much mystery at hand and Holmes himself seems an imitation at best. The most deceptive element of Victorian Undead is undoubtedly its front cover, which shows an undead, maggot-ridden Holmes, illustrated by Tony Moore. Sadly, the contents of Victorian Undead never quite manage to match the originality of this first impression. An easy read for zombie fans then, but Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts will most likely be left feeling disappointed.
7 OUT OF 10