Honour Among Punks
Written by Guy Davis and Gary Reed
Illustrated by Guy Davis, Vince Locke, and Alan Oldham
Published by iBooks
The following is an edited version of a review that I originally posted on Comic World News.
We’ve all got times in our lives that we look back fondly on and measure all our subsequent experiences against. For some of us, it’s high school. For others it’s college. Or our first apartments. Or whatever. For Guy Davis, it was his time in the punk scene during the eighties. Davis would later cut his tall, spiked red hair and create quite a name for himself in the comics industry illustrating titles like Sandman Mystery Theatre, Nevermen and The Marquis, but before that, he and his buddy Gary Reed put together a few comic books that combined Davis’ love of the punk scene with Reed’s love of Sherlock Holmes. The result of that amalgamation was two mini-series and a couple of short features that all fell under the title of Baker Street.
These stories were eventually collected by ibooks into Honour Among Punks, named after the first mini-series. The second mini-series was called Children of the Night and the short features are “Elementary, My Dear” and “A Case of the Blues.”
The collection is interesting to look at right away. Davis’ unique, realistic approach yields characters that look like real people, not stylized caricatures. His backgrounds and settings are incredibly detailed and bring the story to life because he’s so good at convincing us that it’s all happening in a real place. Davis also plays with the layout of the page, sometimes using both sides of a double-page spread so that the comic reads all the way across the top of both pages, then across the middle of both pages, and finally across the bottom of both pages. It’s a technique that other creators have used, including Mark Waid and Butch Guice in CrossGen’s Ruse. You can’t help but wonder how influenced Waid and Guice were by Baker Street when they created their comic about a Holmes-inspired detective living in an alternate reality version of Victorian England. I’m guessing they were very influenced by it, but with all due respect to Waid and Guice — both of whose work I admire very much — Davis and Reed did it first and they did it better.
Honour Among Punks is the story of an American girl named Sue who comes to London for medical school. It’s not the London we know, but London in a world that had a very small World War I and no World War II to propel it forward technologically. As a result, society stagnated around the Victorian era, but that didn’t stop the punk rock movement from coming about, as Sue quickly finds out. While looking for a cheap place to live, she answers an ad and takes a position cleaning house for a punk couple named Sharon and Sam in exchange for room and board. When a series of murders threatens to rip apart the already unstable punk community, Sharon — a former police investigator — takes it upon herself to use her powers of deduction to solve it and restore peace amongst the punk gangs.
The second story (Children of the Night) takes place sometime thereafter and is much darker than the first. It’s also deeper and more intelligent. It involves a series of Jack the Ripper-like murders and explores not only Sharon’s character, but also why she’s so obsessed with solving mysteries and how her obsession affects her relationship with Sam.
The first of the short stories is “Elementary, My Dear,” in which Sharon, Sam, and Sue visit a pawn shop full of objects that will be familiar to readers of Sherlock Holmes stories. They also meet a man who seems very familiar to those same readers and whose deductive powers rival those of Sharon.
“A Case of the Blues” is a sweet Christmas tale that finds Sue in the hospital during the holidays after a diabetic attack. It’s about family and friendship and the importance that these play in our lives all the time, but especially at Christmas.
The mysteries presented in Honour Among Punks are well thought-out and should please any mystery fan, especially fans of Sherlock Holmes. But these stories are so much more than mysteries. They give us a fond glimpse into the punk scene and let us see past the spiked hair, mascara and leather. Actually, “glimpse” isn’t the right word. Through these stories we actually get to participate in the punk scene for a bit. Through the character of Sue, we see the hurt that motivates the punks. We begin to understand the camaraderie that exists amongst members of the punk gangs because all these troubled people have is each other. For Davis, punk isn’t about the music, it’s about fighting loneliness and finding acceptance on one’s own terms.
Honour Among Punks is a beautiful book about ugly people, but they’re people that we come to love and care about as we get to know them. And because of that, the book still resonates and succeeds nearly 20 years after the stories it collects were first published.