Sherlock Holmes moves to manga. Based on the BBC television series, Titan Comics’ six part mini-series stays true to the source, with an adaptation of the final episode of the first season. All is quiet and Holmes is bored. It isn’t long before he and John Watson are called to investigate an explosion that has rocked London. However, this is just the start of an even more dangerous game, where the duo must solve puzzles or watch innocent people die.
For those that don’t follow the rebooted series, Stephen Moffat, longtime showrunner for Doctor Who, cast Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the respective roles of Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Closer in length to a movie rather than a traditional episode, there was plenty of room for the story to breathe. Taking these self-contained episodes and breaking them down into a comic mini-series was a rather interesting idea. So too, was the fact it was written in black and white manga style, read right to left, for no real reason I can see, even after finishing the volume.
The good news is that the material translates well. Cumberbatch’s modern day, anti-social take on Holmes comes through without any bumps. Good news for the book since whether or not you enjoy this version of Holmes will have everything to do with whether or not you will enjoy the book, as Watson has little to do in this first issue other than play sounding board.
The Holmes/Watson dynamic is established early as it opens with a bored Holmes firing a pistol at a smiley face he’s drawn on the wall, simply because no one has been murdered lately, so he has nothing to do. Like any average person, Watson is dumbfounded and agitated by his partner’s behavior. Watson’s role as a record keeper of he and Holmes’s adventures is modernized as he now writes of the cases in a blog. Holmes takes exception to some of the descriptions of himself in the blog, in particular how he is both a genius and unaware of basic facts like how the Earth revolves around the Sun, simply because he doesn’t find it interesting. There’s also a glimpse into Sherlock and his brother Mycroft’s testy relationship.
The art is all black and white, as I mentioned before, but is drawn well. The characters are recognizable and extra care is taken to ensure Sherlock looks like his TV counterpart Cumberbatch. That’s the kind of detail that escapes notice when done well, but would have been jarring had it been a less accurate portrayal. There’s a lot of nice detail in the panels, such as the pattern of the wallpaper or books haphazardly arranged on a shelf, that make the world seem more concrete. It should be mentioned that manga staples such as wide-eyed surprise, body posture and written sound effects, are all present and will be familiar to those that are fans of that type of comic.
Is it good?
This first issue hits the right notes for fans of Holmes’ adventures and viewers of the TV show will be happy that it’s a faithful adaptation. However, since this isn’t an original story, only diehard Sherlock fans will want it for collecting purposes, as there isn’t much in the way of revelations or expansions. I don’t know why the manga format was chosen as it neither adds to or takes away from the story, but would perhaps have been better used on an original tale to further differentiate the show and comic versions. It’s a good read with an interesting main character, but ultimately only tells a small part of a larger story that’s already available.