There’s quite a bold assertion on the cover of The Treasury of British Comics’s The Return of Sexton Blake, which states that Blake is “as brilliant as Holmes, as daring as Bond, the Jack Reacher of his day.” While the Bond and Holmes comparisons fit nicely, the Jack Reacher reference is stretching things a little for a character first published in 1893. Despite little evidence to back up this front cover claim, The Return of Sexton Blake is still a fun compendium of all things Blake, including several features and a short story alongside a couple of comic strips.
It’s interesting to note that while there were hundreds of stories and novels along the way, Blake never really broke into comic until a TV appearance in 1968 led to a short run in Valiant. A few years later, Blake was due to be part of the line-up when 2000AD stablemate Tornado launched in 1979, only to be hit at the last minute by a copyright issue that forced the correction ink to come out, changing his name to Victor Drago. The first Tornado storyline is reprinted here, with yet more Tippex employed to restore the Sexton Blake name.
Writer Chris Lowder and artist Mike Dorey’s 7-parter employs plenty of Blake highlights, including his Rolls Royce, the Silver Lady, and sidekick Tinker. It’s a timeless strip, moody and atmospheric. It’s mostly set within the grounds of a large house on Troll Island, off the remote Cornish coast, and it nicely showcases Blake’s detective chops.
The other highlight is a brand new Sexton Blake comic strip written by George Mann and illustrated by Jimmy Broxton. Told mostly in flashback at Blake’s funeral, there’s lots of scope to show more of Blake’s more modern action/adventure aspects.
Further Blake treats in the book include a full and detailed history, alongside a feature on the artists to have drawn him, plus there’s Lady Molly’s First Case – a complete short story from 1908. Rounding out the collection there’s also a preview of the new novel reprints.
Blake is an intriguing character. Much of the prose reprint material feels a little old-fashioned, but Mann and Broxton’s new strip could easily slot into comics today. Another collection, skewed far more towards both new and reprint comics material, would certainly be welcome.