Sherlock Holmes in the Case of the Missing Martian (Eternity, 1990)
Sherlock Holmes and Martians! It sounds crazy but according to the history laid down by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, he and Doctor Watson lived at
221b Baker Street between 1881-1904, so they would have likely been in London during the invasion of 1900. This is not even the first time the
great detective has gone up against the Martian foe, (Manly and Wade Wellman wrote a story in 1969) but it's the only time such a story has been immortalised in illustrated form.
The story is actually set in 1908, though the chronology seems a little messed up, as it is stated this is 14 years after the invasion.
England has recovered from the Martian attack and at the British Museum the board of trustees are arriving for a preview of a major new
exhibition about the invasion. But something has gone terribly wrong. A glass display case containing a seemingly dead Martian has been
smashed open. Mysterious tracks move away from the case, and the terrified guard will only say that the thing inside went for a walk.
Naturally the police are baffled, so Watson is dispatched to the Sussex Downs where Holmes is engaged in mysterious and secret experiments.
Speeding back to London with Watson, Holmes is soon on the trail of the missing Martian, but did it really wake from the dead, or are
other forces at work?
The Case of the Missing Martian is not necessarily a great whodunit, (the villain is unmasked at the end of the first of 4 issues)
but there is a lot to commend in the script by Doug Murray and art by Topper Helmers. Murray is clearly having great fun messing with
two icons of British literature, but he keeps his feet firmly on the ground and delivers a well-paced story that never skimps on the
action, but equally takes time out to be cleverly introspective with the character of Holmes. Naturally, the Martian invasion has
disrupted the established timeline for Holmes, and we learn in the first issue that he was in the thick of the action during the attack
on London. There are some great flashbacks here, in particular a scene in which Holmes returns to his flat at 221b Baker Street and
stares out on the familiar street, seeing not the peaceful world of 1908, but a city in flames.
It's a very cinematic idea, and Helmers
does great work in bringing it to life. Murray adds some additional elements to the story of the invasion, fleshing out the idea of the
artillery man that people will ally themselves with the Martians. In this story, these men are known as Wormheads.
Where the story does go a bit off course is the introduction of Jack The Ripper, though in fact its not Jack himself, but Watson's
new wife who is under the delusion that she is the terror of Whitechapel. I think the idea was introduced more for the sake of Watson,
in order to give his character some depth beyond merely that of Holmes chronicler, and to introduce some dynamic tension between the
two, but while you can applaud the broadening of their relationship, you can't really be comfortable with the catalyst. Better judged
is the introduction of Conan Doyle's other great literary creation, Professor Challenger, but it is well for the structure of the
story that Murray resists adding in other literary characters from outside the pages of Sherlock Holmes. For sure its been done to
great effect in The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and The Martian Invasion, but this story really does belong first and foremost
to Holmes, which is why I think I am so negative toward the inclusion of the Jack The Ripper side-story. Of course it wouldn't be
Sherlock Holmes if one other character was not included, but for those wanting to seek out this series, I'll not let the cat out of
the bag. I'm sure however that anyone remotely aware of the Sherlock Holmes milieu will be able to guess the identity of this villain.
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