Review: The Trial of Sherlock Holmes
Posted the review here for you as well.
Reviewer: Chris Nuttall, firstname.lastname@example.org
Story Title: The Trial of Sherlock Holmes (1-3).
Elementary, my dear Watson….
Writer: LEAH MOORE, JOHN REPPION
Pencils: AARON CAMPBELL
Inker: AARON CAMPBELL
Colours: TONY AVINA
Published by: DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT!
Note; this review covers issues 1-3 of the series.
Sherlock Holmes, it should be noted from the start, is not a character who translates well onto the comic book page. Holmes is a cerebral man of logic and reason, science and deduction, not a man dressed in tights with muscles on his muscles. The short stories and four novels that make up the Holmes canon generally focus around Holmes applying his mighty brain to a problem, not fisticuffs with some villain who steals a lady’s purse. It is true that Holmes did fight from time to time, but he hardly went around seeking battle. Holmes won his battles by outthinking the criminal mind.
I wasn’t looking forward to The Trial of Sherlock Holmes when I first heard about it. Holmes did leap onto the comic book page in Planetary 13 – where he serves as the young Snow’s tutor – but few of his other appearances were decent. I was relieved that Holmes remained an unseen character in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (although his brother made several very good appearances) as Holmes would not only have outshone the others, but he would hardly have fitted into a world where the supernatural walked side by side with the mundane world. Holmes never dealt with the supernatural and the cases where a supernatural element seemed to be involved – most specifically, The Hound of the Baskervilles – it always turned out to be a criminal scheme. A person watching the movies, or reading some of the more dubious fan-fiction, might be excused for thinking otherwise, but Holmes is the man of reason. The supernatural has no place in his world.
Dynamite Entertainment (world-famous publishers of The Boys, among other titles that the big boys don’t dare to print) has brought us a new six-part Holmes limited series, entitled The Trial of Sherlock Holmes. The writer promised us a look into a very different section of London and Holmes’ world, not something that pleased me. I recall with a shudder a story that had Holmes going off on completely the wrong tangent, but…I digress. The first issue opens with an bomb going off in London and proceeds rapidly to a threat made against the life of a Commissioner in London, who promptly summons Holmes to protect him. While Watson waits downstairs, Holmes remains alone with the Commissioner and, when the building is attacked, bursts in to see…Holmes holding the murder weapon and the Commissioner dead. Issue two has Holmes arrested for murder – the locked room mystery is done very well, but I still want to see the conclusion before I give full marks – and locked up, while Watson and Inspector Lestrade search for clues, against his superior’s orders. At the end of the issue, Holmes has escaped into London. Watson’s investigation leads him to Mycroft Holmes in issue three, who brushes him off, before heading for lunch with none other than Sherlock himself.
And I am impressed. The story seems to work well on many different levels. The writers tie in many different elements of Holmes’s world and intertwine it with real history, as Queen Victoria prepares to meet her future husband – referred to here by his German name. The interaction between Holmes and Watson lacks a certain something at first, but it is nice to see Watson acting in his typical British Bulldog role, hunting for the clues that will save his friend, or damn him. Modern readers may be surprised by the details of Scotland Yard, but while it’s nice to see Inspector Lestrade operating with more intelligence than in the canon, he was always outshone by Holmes. The interesting point to remember is that Holmes never had the CSI forensic team to help his investigations. Scotland Yard was not what it is now.
There are plenty of clues scattered through the comic, even if I cannot deduce what they mean. Some of them are more interesting than others. A theory involving Moriarty (the arch-typical Holmes villain, even though he only appeared in one story and was mentioned in a handful of others) isn’t original to this work, but a short story published some years ago. I find it unlikely in the extreme that Holmes and Moriarty were actually the same person and Watson should have rubbished the entire theory harshly. The apparent willingness of elements in the British Government to leave Holmes as the fall guy, if he is the fall guy…is just odd. Or, perhaps, it’s another clue.
The artist deserves particular praise for most of his artwork, although not all. Some aspects are handled very well, particularly Holmes in disguise. It’s easy to forget that Holmes was a master of disguise, but not in this comic. Holmes changes disguises on several occasions, but in both principle cases – hah – we, the readers, are invited in on the joke through excellent artwork. It’s neat, without being too overdone and leave us wondering what dimwits the rest of the characters are. Holmes and Watson are their familiar selves – they could hardly be otherwise without disappointing their fans, but then, there are plenty of the original artist’s sketches around – but the same cannot be said for some of the others. Lestrade, in particular, seems to reassemble Watson at times, leaving me wondering which was which. Mycroft Holmes and Mrs Hudson are very different from their Strand Magazine selves.
Holmes’ world is illustrated very well indeed. The background, the people and the contrasts between rich and poor are very clever. It’s far more than just actors playing a role, if I may be permitted the faint analogy, but a blur of artwork and contemporary attitudes that make up the world. I am impressed.
I don’t know how this will end up, but its on my pull list. Why not try and beat Holmes to the mystery?
Five out of Five
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