Honour Among Punks: The Complete Baker Street

Written by Guy Davis and Gary Reed
Art by Guy Davis
368 pages, black and white
Published by iBooks, Inc.

In the early ’90s, I remember a friend of mine in college looking at me like I was some sort of strange alien from another planet. He finally sputtered, “What do you mean, you’ve never read Baker Street?” he said, incredulously. I promised him that I’d fix this as soon as possible, and remember buying the two collections of the series that Caliber Books had published. I sat down with the first one… and the binding promptly exploded, sending pages scattering everywhere. I never did find a replacement, and figured that me reading Baker Street was just not meant to be. Thankfully, publisher iBooks, Inc. has decided to not only keep bringing classic prose books into print, but to also do the same with comic books. It’s nice to get a second chance.

In an alternate history best described as Neo-Victorian, Susan Prendergast is an American medical student studying in London. In order to make ends meet, she takes on a housecleaning job with two punks, Sharon Ford and her girlfriend Sam. Entering the punk world and its codes of honor is enough of a shock for Susan, but what she really isn’t prepared for is discovering Sharon’s former life as a police detective, or how Sharon’s deductive skills are still being put to good use. It’s a good thing Sharon’s keeping them finely honed, since between art thieves, punk gang warfare, and a serial killer on the streets of London, she and Susan are definitely going to need them at full capacity…

If I had to sum up the entire Baker Street experience, it would be watching creators grow stronger with each page. At the beginning of Honour Among Punks I found it a little hard to get into, with attempts to phonetically write out thick accents not instantly gelling, coupled with a large cast that’s quickly introduced. As each chapter progressed, though, everything seemed more familiar and natural… which, when you consider that you’re seeing the events through the eyes of Susan, fits perfectly with Susan’s growth as a character. While the stories may get more crisp and defined throughout the collection, it’s the mentioned character-growth that was the real attraction to me. Each of the three principals is intensely realistic; Susan’s naivety never equals stupidity, for instance, a distinction that’s often lost on other writers. Guy Davis and Gary Reed really make Sharon’s fine intelligence believable, something that can be difficult in a mystery. There’s definitely a strong Sherlock Holmes air about her, but at the same time she’s got her own unique traits and character points that make her someone in her own right. Even Sam, who gets the least screen time of the three, is a fascinating character to read about, and the twists and turns she’s put through should enthrall even the most jaded reader. In many ways, Sam is the embodiment of the world of Baker Street, a compendium of aggression, hidden motives, sexuality, and a safety pin through the ear.

Like his and Reed’s writing, Davis’s art also evolves throughout the course of Baker Street‘s ten issues. What starts as very stripped down, simple art grows more intricate and layered, turning into what we’re used to today. It’s important, because it’s in these later issues that Neo-Victorian London really gains itself an identity. Looking at the intricate designs of the punk’s tattoos and hair styles is as enthralling as the buildings and vehicles on display, here; you get a real sense of the downtrodden atmosphere that settles over Baskervilles and the other punk hangouts, and just how mistrusted the punks are. By the time you get to the final pages of Honour Among Punks, you find yourself wanting to see more of this world… and somehow believing, thanks in part to the vivid images created by Davis, that it’s somewhere you really could visit.

Honour Among Punks is a fantastic collection; this is a series that really defined Davis as a creator, and is enjoyable now as it was almost fifteen years ago. If you’ve ever wondered how Davis had already created a name for himself before Sandman Mystery Theatre or The Marquis, look no further. The first of many reissues of classic and contemporary comics, iBooks is proving that they sure can pick em.

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