While an improvement over the lackluster first issue, the second issue of Dynamite Entertainment’s “Sherlock Holmes” still reads painfully slowly and is, in places, a bit too heavy-handed with scenes obviously included only to set up events later in the issue and in future issues.
After the events of last issue, Sherlock Holmes is behind bars, almost certainly guilty of murdering a man for his apparent discovery that Holmes and Moriarty are the same person. It’s a classic locked room murder mystery, except without the mystery, if Scotland Yard is to be believed. But Dr. Watson and Inspector Lestrade simply can’t believe that Holmes would kill a man — or that he’s Moriarty.
In a story like this, it’s only natural for readers to side with Holmes despite a mountain of evidence against him, but even the story itself doesn’t really seem to believe that Holmes is guilty. That sort of approach is both refreshing and harmful to the story. It’s refreshing to see something as obvious as Holmes not being a murderer not being taken too seriously by the writers since no one honestly believes this story is going to end with Holmes guilty of the crime. But, at the same time, the lack of tension transforms this story into a purely intellectual exercise in figuring out how Holmes was framed and why, which is kind of boring when the plot moves at a glacial pace.
It’s difficult at this time to judge what scenes are unnecessary since future issues will reveal what was important and what wasn’t, but there’s far too much effort put into mimicking the cinematic effect of following a minor character from one location to another in order to bridge scenes. These transitions add nothing to the story, except filler that allows Moore and Reppion to drag events out. And, in one case, the transition leads to a scene that seems entirely unrelated to the plot.
These transitions do allow Aaron Campbell to show off his artistic skills as he deftly handles them with ease. His work continues to improve as he depicts Victorian England well, placing the events firmly in that period. His character work and body language is also better than last issue. In the opening pages, his moody art that shows what theoretically happened in Sir Henry’s locked room when he was shot is breathtaking, as is the sequence where Watson does nothing but sit at his desk, trying to figure out how Holmes was framed, struggling to do the work of his absent friend.
In individual issues, “Sherlock Holmes” reads slowly with unnecessarily long and entirely unrelated scenes. Not only that, but scenes that do contain vital information are crammed into pages with six or more panels, while those unnecessary scenes are given large, open, four-panels-or-less pages. It’s a sort of baffling storytelling that, hopefully, makes sense by the end of this series – but, for the moment, is the true mystery.