When is a mystery not a mystery? Well you don’t need to be Sherlock himself to solve this conundrum; it’s usually when the outcome is clear from the start. It’s a problem that Titan’s recent republishing of Kadokawa’s Sherlock manga by the artist Jay. (with the period included in his name) struggles to overcome. By sticking so slavishly to Steven Moffat’s script for A Study in Pink, the book will already be familiar to those with even a passing knowledge of the show.
However, what elevates Sherlock #2 above a mere facsimile is the artwork. Jay. has a real knack for drawing expressive characters and, when he does wrest himself free from the script, he manages to find something interesting in the familiar.
His interpretation of Sherlock’s glee upon learning that the serial killer is convincing his victims to commit suicide is unhinged in wonderfully uninhibited way. As too his exploration of Dr John Watson’s struggle with his war history. It’s Dr Watson whose subtle facial expressions are perhaps the most expressive, despite the dominating demonstrativeness of Sherlock’s character – he wears his heart on his sleeve and Jay. reflects that in his warmer, open body language.
The backgrounds are painstakingly detailed too and the shading really makes 221B Baker Street pop. The operatic lighting, where backgrounds drop out entirely save for a speech bubble work well and I love the little descriptions in the margins such as *suddenly*. The panelling in particular stands out, no space is wasted as the book zips along at a rollicking pace with each inventive page layout.
Much of the issue is devoted to Dr Watson feeling out Sherlock’s morally questionable position a ‘consulting detective’ and Jay. makes wonderful use of multiple panels to reflect upon the many shades that go into making Sherlock such a compelling character and, more importantly, we’re left to make up our own mind to decide what the silence means for their burgeoning friendship.
These moments only seem to underline the sense that Jay. is rather wasted here. He’s a talented artist, with a real knack for telling stories in bold strokes that convey multiple layers of story without alienating the reader. He deserves credit for the clarity of his adaptation and the tone of the book, which captures the feel of the show (the opening pages serve as a classic TV series style ‘On last week’s episode’ recap) but you can’t help that the Sherlock licence would be better served building the kind of worlds that make Titan Comics Doctor Who line so compelling.
Ultimately, if the book drives new readers to seek out other comics or builds an interest in non-fans for Sherlock then nothing will be wasted but, here’s hoping Jay. gets his own world to play in or an original story to sink his teeth into because, for his artwork alone, the book is worth reading.
Sherlock: A Study In Pink #2 is available now from all good stockist and digitally via Comixology