(Dynamite Entertainment, 2013)
Review by Brad Gischia
Written by David Liss
Illustrated by Daniel Indro
Colored by Josan Gonzales
Lettered by Joshua Cozine
Cover by Francesco Francavilla
I have long been a fan of the detective that lives at 221B Baker St. and said detective’s relationship with a certain Doctor. Just writing about the two makes me want to expand my sentence structure, to elucidate on the vagaries of fate, explain the minutia of everyday life to the point where even the most exacting and lucid reader will soon fall off into a kind of wordy coma, so that when the paragraph has reached its’ final and lasting conclusion only those with the fortitude and, if I may be so bold, the moral righteousness of a Doctor Watson or a Sherlock Holmes will find themselves still standing, or reading, at the end of it.
In short, I was offered the chance to review Sherlock Holmes: Moriarty Lives, from Dynamite, and of course I readily agreed.
The last of the original Sherlock stories by Sir A.C. Doyle is called “The Final Problem”, and describes Holmes’ hunt for the dastardly Moriarty. In the end the two proved that not only were they a perfect match mentally, but physically as well as the two plummeted over the Reichenbach Falls and to their dooms. Later Doyle would resurrect Holmes in the form of “previously unpublished cases” all of which took place before the events at Reichenbach.
This comic takes place immediately after the two go into the falls, and literally begins with a soaked Moriarty pulling himself from the river, and instead of being voiced by the legendary protagonist, it takes the point of view of Dr. Moriarty, ostensibly one of the legendary criminals in all of literature. (Alan Moore posted him at the head of a criminal organization in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.)
The depiction of Moriarty at first is perfect. He displays the Sherlockian skill of extreme observation that is shown in both of the big budget Sherlock movies starring Robert Downey Jr. and the Steven Moffat BBC show “Sherlock”. (In my opinion the better of the two.) These are the little things that build a character, and David Liss does it perfectly as Moriarty describes a man’s family just by observing what he is wearing and the packages he carries.
Moriarty is in for a surprise, as he finds that the town he has surfaced in has secrets, including a mysterious Baron who wields some kind of mystic power over the folk there.
I don’t know this Moriarty though, as he displays characteristics that I wouldn’t have put on him. He defends a helpless woman and on her death bed promises to look after her son. This might be in character, being an educated Englishman in the late eighteenth century; it would have been instilled in him to protect the weak. But Moriarty wasn’t ever a typical Englishman. That was the whole reason Sherlock was so dumbfounded by him. I understand that we are looking at an anti-hero, someone who is quick to kill, which he does in the book, but would this same man be willing to care for a child? The Moriarty I envision is cold, calculating, a scientist. He is the future, the modern man. He is what Sherlock would be without Watson and Mrs. Hudson and his Irregulars, those anchors that bind him to the human race. Moriarty has none of that, and therefore doesn’t feel for people as Holmes does.
Barring that, I do like this book. There is a little mysticism and sorcery-type stuff thrown in at the end, but I wager that Moriarty will find the trick, depose the magician, and (I hope) pawn off the child to someone as he leaves town. Not every Batman needs a Robin.
The art is great. Daniel Indro captured the feel of the story in his pencils, and used a great deal of detail in the backgrounds that made this a joy to look at. Josan Gonzales colored it with muted tones that give it the drab appearance that comes to my mind when I think of the 19th century.
Francesco Francavilla did the cover work. His work is always a great way to start a book.
Overall I thought this was a great story and any time I can read more into the lives of those characters that I have read so often already, well, I’m into that. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes, and if Moriarty continues to be the evil badass that I grew up reading about.
Follow Brad Gischia on Twitter: @comicwasteland