Trading Up: Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes Vs. Zombies

Lowdown - Article

Share this lowdown

  • Button Delicious
  • Bttn Digg
  • Bttn Facebook
  • Bttn Ff
  • Bttn Myspace
  • Bttn Stumble
  • Bttn Twitter
  • Bttn Reddit

London, 1854, and a mysterious meteor brings an undead infection to England’s capital city. For over 40 years, the incident is kept under wraps by the British Secret Service. But the past is about to be unearthed when a fiendish mastermind unleashes a zombie outbreak to topple the Victorian establishment. With the plague of the dead spreading, history’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes, faces his most bizarre case yet: one in which an old (and long thought dead) enemy will return to match wits with the master sleuth once more.

Potential readers can be forgiven for approaching Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes Vs. Zombies with more than a hint of healthy scepticism. Zombies, of course, have been fashionably in vogue in cult circles for a number of years now and comics as a genre, in particular, seem to have exploited the craze to the point of tedium. For the cynical, a second strike against this series is that its conceptual starting point is another recently overplayed craze; that of the “mash-up” merging disparate fictional genres into unlikely new combinations, as popularised by the breakout hit Jane Austen parody, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

However, such preconceived doubts should be put aside because Victorian Undead far exceeds the expectations that its fad-chasing setup imply. Those who have enjoyed the previous genre-inspired work of writer Ian Edginton, whether it be his straight Sherlock Homes adaptations for Self Made Hero or his more playful expansion of the War of the Worlds mythos in his Scarlet Traces trilogy, will be aware that Edginton is a writer who has a proven track record in effectively translating classic literary iconography to the comic book page.

As perhaps befits the slightly tongue-in-cheek nature of the project, Edginton provides us with a less intense Holmes in this collection. He remains the brilliant deductive genius, but the often brooding and manic maverick of the prose page is less in evidence here. Fans of the Holmes canon will no doubt also enjoy appearances from Sherlock’s brother Mycroft Holmes, old adversary Colonel Moran, and, inevitably exploiting the possibilities of a controlled zombie army of course, the “Napoleon of Crime” himself, Professor James Moriarty.

Victorian Undead’s greatest strength is that the battle of minds between Holmes and his “arch-nemesis” Moriarty wisely remains the prime focus of events. Yes, there’s plenty of zombie carnage for those yet to tire of it but, although their presence is obviously central to the plot, it’s almost peripheral to the main narrative conflict - another engaging conflict between two of literature’s greatest adversaries who, somewhat ironically, only ever met on the one occasion on the prose page.

On the artistic front, Davide Fabbri does an admirable job on the art chores, mixing period detail with the requisite scenes of slavering gore to great effect. In particular, his action sequences, as London is overrun and devastated by the zombie plague, are flowing and cinematic in scope.

Tom Mandrake also joins the fun to provide the visuals for a monochrome flashback sequence explaining Moriarty’s survival at the Reichenbach Falls, during events portrayed in original Holmes story, “The Final Problem.” It’s a clever and logical set piece that effortlessly ties the Conan Doyle originals into the continuity of the comic’s world and provides the audience with a knowingly entertaining "Easter Egg" moment.

If you ignored the monthly issues of Victorian Undead in trepidation at the thought of yet another recycled “rampaging zombie attack” storyline, it’s worth thinking again and giving this trade collection a look. It may be a less deferential take on the world of Sherlock Holmes, but Edginton fully succeeds in melding mystery and the undead into a boisterous, page-turning, zombie detective story. Victorian Undead is rollocking good escapist fun that doesn’t as much jump on the “mash-up” bandwagon as irresponsibly hijack it and take it for a reckless joyride. A perfect entry point to the recent follow-up one-shot and the sequel miniseries currently hitting the stands.

Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes Vs. Zombies is available via Titan Books in the UK, priced at £14.99, and published by DC Comics in the US, priced at $17.99.

Related content

Related Headlines

Related Lowdowns

Related Reviews

Related Columns


There are no comments yet.

In order to post a comment you have to be logged in. Don't have a profile yet? Register now!

Latest headlines


Latest comments
Comics Discussion
Broken Frontier on Facebook