George Mann’s series of mystery novels featuring the crime fighting duo of Newbury and Hobbes (The Affinity Bridge, The Osiris Ritual, The Immorality Engine, The Executioner’s Heart and The Revenant Express) are given the comic treatment for the first time in the latest addition to the series from Titan Comics, Newbury & Hobbes: The Undying.
Set in an alternate Victorian London where steampunk has taken hold, providing steam-powered carriages, strange contraptions and airships aplenty, the landscape is both familiar and also unnervingly ever so slightly different. Newbury and Hobbes situates itself on similar ground to the stories of Sherlock Holmes but with added mystery, violence, flair and, excitingly, the supernatural.
Time to meet our protagonists: Firstly we have Sir Maurice Newbury, a gentleman investigator for the crown who is confident and skilled but also damns the consequences of his rash actions. Think of him as more akin to the modern Robert Downey Jr version of Sherlock than the Arthur Conan Doyle version but with more Britishness. As ever, we need a capable and grounding sidekick for all the folly of Newbury and we have it in Miss Veronica Hobbes, no shrinking violet herself and very capable in a tight situation but it seems that she is the more thoughtful and cautious of the two.
In issue 1 of The Undying, set in 1903, the case starts with a bout of fisticuffs between Newbury and Hobbes and a gang of masked assailants. Upon beating them it is uncovered that they are only part man and part machine! The further discovery of a surgically altered man found drowned at the bottom of a lake, the suspicion of a nefarious doctor being responsible but most excitingly being left on a cliffhanger when another masked individual creates an explosion in Scotland Yard.
Narrated throughout with the internal monologue of Miss Hobbes, we get a balanced and reliable idea of what is going on, as opposed to the more gung-ho and brash outlook of Newbury. Dan Boultwood’s illustration is catchy and clear with good style and inventive design throughout and the characters of Newbury, Hobbes et al feel fleshed out and with a history that is brought across from the novel series helping to add to their depth. Aligning these great characters with a good, solid feeling beginning of a plot and it left me wanting to read more into this story and to find out about the novel series as well.
Newbury & Hobbes is light-hearted fun with a bit of action and mystery but the additional of the supernatural element and the steampunk era really puts this comic into an exciting world of its own.
Newbury & Hobbes #1: The Undying is now available from Titan Comics.