I read the .pdf of this issue twice — once on Sunday and then, again, on Monday, because, well, honestly, I couldn’t really remember what happened. Never a good sign, but my rereading of “Sherlock Holmes” #1 did leave me with a more positive impressions of the issue, albeit not one that improved by a whole lot. It’s a plodding, slow, crawling comic that has a fair chance of boring you into sleep, but the end of it redeems it quite a bit.
If anything, the biggest failing of this comic is that it’s so beholden to a set formula. We need to sit through 20 pages of set up for an ending that is very interesting and dynamic, and is probably the reason why anyone would pick up a second issue. Granted, in coming issues, those initial 20 pages will come back to reveal numerous crucial clues and tidbits, but for a first issue, it’s a killer.
The set-up is basic and could be given in a much more compressed manner: there was an explosion in London’s East End that seems to be connected with a threat on a former assistant commissioner, Sir Samuel Henry, who is currently ill with consumption. Henry is, apparently, to be killed at precisely seven the following evening, so Holmes and Watson arrive at his home shortly before and converse with the inspector in charge of the police detail that’s guarding Henry.
The ensuing discussion seems aimed at filling the pages and holding off the end of this issue as long as possible, because it’s the shocking cliffhanger — and reads exactly as such. Moore and Reppion mimic the writing style of Doyle well enough but, as I said, seem so beholden to his formula as to not produce an interesting comic. While this sort of set up works well in prose, for a comic it falls flat and crawls at a glacial pace.
Aaron Campbell’s art is serviceable, but has some odd inconsistencies. His use of light and shadow changes from panel to panel with one inexplicable case of Holmes (I think since characters are hard to tell apart at times) in heavy shadow despite not having changed setting. As well, the lack of backgrounds is distracting and takes away from the attempt at authentically capturing the time period. His figures are rendered with an overabundance of detail, but the actual settings barely warrant a fraction of that effort?
That said, Campbell does produce some wonderful images as the preview pages show. The explosion that begins the issue is intricately detailed and very well done. His storytelling is also strong, although leans towards the melodramatic at times with characters posed in exaggerated positions that don’t quite match the dialogue.
While the issue ends well and almost makes me want to read what happens next, the same can’t be said for everything leading up to it. Fans of Holmes will surely disagree, loving the adherence to the format of Doyle, but what works in prose doesn’t always work in comics, and this issue is a clear example.