by Michael Brown, staff writer

images (5)Since Arthur Conan Doyle introduced his idiosyncratic detective Sherlock Holmes and his loyal assistant Dr. John Watson to the literary world, the different iterations have been numerous,  to say the least. From exploring Holmes’  childhood, to Holmes in the future, from comedic interpretations as bumbling idiots, to more modern retellings like CBS’ Elementary or the BBC’s Sherlock, the sleuths have certainly been around the block. Which brings me to …

After being happy that Brian Michael Bendis was back in form in Guardians of the Galaxy, I stumbled across a new book while perusing Comixology. Six issues in but it still got my attention. Not only a new book, but a new book by a new company. A new version of Holmes, one of many, but had this one been done before? Not that I could remember.

 It’s easy to forget that with all the hubbub over DC’s New 52 or Marvel’s attempt to reboot their universe in a much less confusing fashion, that comics aren’t all about superheroes and that every once in a while, something comes along that makes comics fresh again.

Watson and Holmes, a Kickstarter project by New Paradigm Studios, puts an African-American Holmes and Watson in present-day Harlem, with all of the crime and problems of that community. Private Investigator Sherlock Holmes and his assistant, Afghanistan war vet and Harlem medical intern Jon Watson face mysteries and situations that reflect life in an impoverished urban setting. Writer Karl Bolling is staying true to their origins. Not much light has been shed on Holmes’ background as yet, other than that he’s as brilliant and quirky as those who came before and he still lives at 221 Baker Street.

Watson is a former paratrooper who served in Afghanistan but now works in a clinic emergency room, and it’s there that he meets Holmes for the first time. Watson is a take-charge kind of guy, whose Army background gives him the brawn to Holmes’ brains. Watson also serves as the narrator of the story.

Holmes uses his deductive mind, putting him three steps ahead of everyone else, and he certainly isn’t afraid to mix it up if he has to. He even drops an “elementary” as he explains his deductive reasoning to Watson during their first mystery together. Their first case pits them against well-armed mercenaries-turned-drug-dealers who have captured the daughter of someone Holmes knows. To make matters worse, the abandonment of several babies in dumpsters seems to tie into it.

The partnership is still new, so there’s still plenty of room for character development, but it’s obvious that Watson is impressed with Holmes’ desire to solve the crime and protect the city.  I’ve only read as far as issue #2 as of this writing, so I still haven’t seen Lt. Stroud, but readers have been assured that in issue #3, we get to meet Mycroft. And Rick Leonardi’s pencils are as fresh today as when he was at Marvel.  I loved his Spider-Man 2099. This series is available in a standard version with colors or the “noir” version with only black and white pencils.

This is a version of Holmes and Watson that’s been a long time coming. Just throw caution to the wind and enjoy their new setting. 4 stars.

 About New Paradigm Studios

Founded by 3D artist/designer Brandon Perlow, New Paradigm Studios (NPS) is a new publishing company established to change the existing paradigms of comic book storytelling. Distributed digitally, NPS is committed to publishing cutting edge titles that break the norm and shift away from experiencing the conventional. For the stories at New Paradigm Studios … there are no limits.

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