At five-and-twenty summers, Jane Eyre has seen more than most men her age, never mind most women! Newly returned to England after serving as an ambulance driver during the Boer War, she has few prospects for advancement in her career as a nurse and, thanks to a small scar on her face, few prospects for marriage. Indeed, what humble savings she has prove insufficient to continue living alone in London. Thankfully, her associate Lady Estella Havisham has another acquaintance who is in need of a roommate.
The acquaintance is outspoken and American, though that may be redundant. She is also able to glean the sum total of Jane’s most recent experiences at a glance! Though she does not describe her work, she admits to keeping odd hours and practicing knife throwing to relax when she doesn’t play the piano. She seems an odd sort, this Irene Adler, but she also seems enough of a like mind to the spirited Jane for her to think they would be a good match as roommates.
It soon becomes apparent, however, that Irene’s life is more interesting than she lets on and war in South Africa may prove more peaceable than sharing her flat!
In reading and considering Adler #1, certain comparisons are inescapable. The most obvious is to Adler’s frequent foe Sherlock Holmes, with the basic set-up of this issue being a gender-flipped take on A Study In Scarlet with an apparent descendant of the original Jane Eyre in place of Dr. John Watson. And with all the assorted literary heroines profiled in this issue, one can’t help but think of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neil’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen stories.
Of course the idea of placing characters from different sources into a shared universe or making reference to earlier literary characters in one’s own work is hardly a new idea. Sir Doyle did the same thing himself in A Study In Scarlet, paying homage to Edgar Allan Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin and pen-pals H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Howard famously borrowed a bit from each other in crafting their respective weird tales. Adler #1 is cut from the same cloth, but with a decidedly different focus.
Thankfully, Lavie Tidhar’s story does not solely cater to the bookish set who will chuckle at all the references to characters most may dimly remember from their high school literature classes. (Besides, I suspect the serious bookish set will find some objection to Estella from Great Expectations still being around in 1902 and having become a scientist.) The characters have heart and the seeds are lain for a ripping yarn, though the action in this chapter is limited to Ms. Adler’s casually dealing with an assailant who is wholly unprepared for the beating administered by a seemingly helpless lady.
The artwork by Paul McCaffery is as vivid and detailed as Tidhar’s story. The character designs are notable in their uniqueness, with none of the main characters resembling one another in terms of their facial features or costuming. There are also a wide variety of color palettes utilized to subtly denote changes in location and the time of day. The level of detail paid to the backgrounds is also worthy of note.
Adler will certainly appeal to fans of the Sherlock Holmes stories but also to anyone who enjoys stories centered around smart women who don’t let society get in their way. With complex artwork and a story that puts a unique spin on some of the 19th century’s greatest literary heroines, this is one adventure you’ll want to sign-on for.
Adler #1 will be released on February 5, 2020.