=This issue is the start of a new story arc, “The Lazarus Tree,” so it seemed like a good jumping-on point to check out this series. I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, so I was equal parts interested and wary. I have found that too many creators wanting to work with Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Professor Moriarty really have no idea who these characters are. They haven’t studied The Canon. They work from the public image of Holmes rather than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s carefully crafted character.
The opening scene with Holmes and Watson at Baker Street put my mind mostly to rest. Holmes is very much like Holmes, and while Watson does come off as a bit silly he is closer to the competent partner in Doyle’s books than Nigel Bruce’s buffoonish abomination in the Holmes movie seriels. I liked the art right from the start as well. Dark sepia tones layed over thick lines that looked like a rough woodcut rather than a drawn comic. Nice.
And then Moriarty appears.
Now, a series based around Moriarty is going to have my alarms going off in the first place. Even though he is undoubtedly Holmes’ arch-enemy, in real life he was a character specifically to kill off Holmes, who Doyle had gotten bored of. The Napoleon of Crime only appears in two stories, and then only briefly. He is depicted as a genius of crime, a spider who sits in the middle of his web, ordering others to do the dirty and dangerous work. He is not such a hands-on villain. Much more of a mastermind.
The Moriarty here is much more physical and spiritual. He is driven by strange dreams and visions, and is a mystic more than a professor. This Moriarty travels and gets his hands dirty.
And you know what? It works. I had to let go of my “Hey! That’s not Moriarty” thoughts and just take the series as a new character who happens to share the same name. Moriarty has some interesting things going on. I liked Moriarty’s confrontation with the racism face of colonial Burma. I liked his mystic connection, his sense of his own death and his journey. There is almost a Robert E. Howard feel to this series, with Moriarty being a primal, amoral character.
Anthony Diecidue’s art, so striking at first, starts to lose its power towards the end. Some of the characters lose that woodcut feel, and their faces are oddly distorted. Chins stick out at all angles, and foreheads warp over the face. Its not bad, but just somewhat odd.
Moriarty #5 worked in hooking me onto the series. I plan to go back and read the first four issues, and then keep on with “The Lazarus Tree” story arc. I can’t say I have absolute confident that I will love them, but I like the feel of the series so far, and I am a sucker for adventures serials set in the Orient, so we will see how goes.
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the 90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack’s reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.