Justin Phillips (writer and letterer), Sean Miller (pencils and inks), Lesley Atalansky (colors)
Action Lab Comics
August 23, 2017
In the third issue of Kid Sherlock, the playground equipment for classroom 221 at Baker Elementary has gone missing, and the eponymous kid Sherlock and his faithful pal Watson solve the mystery of where it has gone. As was the case for issues #1 and #2, it offers a fast-paced, child-appropriate plot with many references to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories that a parent will enjoy catching. These references are light, and child readers will not be at a disadvantage if they are not familiar with the originals.
Kid Sherlock is marketed as an “all ages” comic, but I would be most likely to recommend it to seven or eight-year-olds. Sean Miller’s rounded, engaging drawing style and Lesley Atlansky’s bold color palate, as well as the classroom dynamics, seem to indicate that Sherlock and Watson are in second or third grade, and in “Missing Equipment” there are references to the “big kids” at the elementary school that make it clear that Sherlock and Watson’s class are on the young side.
As with any contemporary reboot, part of the fun of Kid Sherlock is seeing how elements from the original Sherlock Holmes stories get reimagined. Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson’s landlady, Mrs. Hudson, gets recast as kid Sherlock’s classroom teacher, for instance. The third issue introduces two fan favorites–Mycroft Holmes and Irene Adler–and while the story of the missing playground equipment does not map onto either of the original Conan Doyle stories in which those characters first appeared, their new kid versions feel like appropriate homage.
While I can certainly envision a lot of Sherlockian parents who would be excited to share this comic with their kids, I can also envision kids happily stumbling onto it and enjoying it with little to no context. There are a few things about the series, however, that keep me from recommending it to everyone wholeheartedly.
First of all, there are glaring copyediting errors that are distracting. Each issue of Kid Sherlock has one mystery that gives the issue its title and takes up most of the pages, followed by a much shorter story with a punchline, and then some activity pages, including instructions on how to draw specific characters, word searches, and mazes. In all three issues so far, these activity pages include a coloring page that includes the note, “Use markers or crayons to color this page. You can even scan it on your computer and print multipule [sic] copies to practice coloring again and again!” Putting aside my skepticism about how many child readers have a computer with a scanner, I am surprised that the misspelling of “multiple” was not corrected after it appeared in the first or second issue.
Second of all, a re-envisioning of the Sherlock Holmes stories does not need to be as white or as male as it is presented here in Kid Sherlock. In this comic, Dr. Watson becomes a fluffy white dog in glasses, attending an otherwise all-human elementary school. Surely some named, significant characters can be reimagined as well to make the human world of the comic series more diverse.
The third caveat to my recommendation might actually address the other two. The comic is only on its third issue, and Volume 1 comes out in October. While I am not sure how many issues it will include, or what supplementary material will be included, it might correct some of the many distracting copyediting errors, and by then, the world of the comic may indeed be more diverse.