Monday, March 01, 2010

Sherlock Holmes Volume 1: The Trial of Sherlock Holmes by Leah Moore, Alan Reppion and Aaron Campbell

Sherlock Holmes, the most famous consulting Detective in London, is Asked by Sir Samuel Henry to attend to him at his house. London has lately been the target of some Anarchists who have been blowing up the place, and Sir Henry has been threatened by the same madmen and is in danger of his life, which will supposedly be ended at 7 PM exactly.

When Sherlock Holmes and his amanuensis, Watson, arrive at Sir Henry's house, they notice that it is full of cuckoo clocks and chiming clocks, all of which go off at their arrival. Holmes is ushered upstairs to see Sir Henry, while the rest of them must wait downstairs.

But at 7 PM, a shot is heard from upstairs, and they all rush up there to find Sir Henry dead in his bed, and Sherlock Holmes standing, looking perplexed and in shock, with his gun in his hand. Nearby, almost in the flames of the Fireplace, is a document claiming that Holmes is a hidden Criminal Menace. When asked what happened, Holmes can only stammer that he didn't know what to do.

This statement, and the evidence nearly burnt in the fire is seized upon by Detective Inspector Davies to argue that the information is correct, and that Henry had information on Holmes that Holmes wished to suppress. He immediately arrests Holmes and throws him in jail, no matter the protests by Dr. Watson and Inspector Lestrade.

And once Holmes is in Prison, Davies won't let anyone see him, not Holmes, not Lestrade, not even Mrs. Watson, who comes to bring Holmes his breakfast. But why does Davies want Holmes held incommunicado, and can Holmes's friends and allies manage to save him from the Hangman's noose at his trial? How will they be able to save Holmes when Holmes appears to be unable to save himself?

I liked the idea behind this story thoroughly- that Holmes himself is in trouble and he's relying on the people who usually work for him to find leads and pursue them while he cools his heels in prison. And this is true for most of story, except that Holmes does manage to escape for a while, and he contacts both Mycroft and Watson while he is out, but he is soon captured and returned to jail.

But the question becomes was he caught unwittingly or because he wanted to be? With Holmes, it could be either. And just so you know, Watson is yet again played in this one as the somewhat older, sedentary Doctor, and with Holmes wearing his Deerstalker cap in the midst of the city. Where there might be plenty of evidence for this in the movies, neither is really true of the novels, or to someone who has done research into Late Victorian times. Yes, Holmes did wear a Deerstalker- in one case, that happened in the country- The Hound of the Baskervilles- because it was the type of hat one wore in the country! In the city, Holmes would surely have worn a city hat- Bowler, Homburg, a Top Hat when attending the opera, and so on.

Watson, of course, was hardly older than Holmes, and people seem to forget that he was a military doctor- not a shapeless slug. And he was also intelligent- not as intelligent as Holmes, but only Mycroft was as smart as Holmes- smarter, actually, but Mycroft was never interested in getting out and doing anything. So aside from this comic perpetuating several Holmes myths. it's not bad at all. Just don't assume that "Moore" means Alan Moore, as I did. This one is actually penned by a Leah Moore. Not the same thing.

The biggest disappointment with this graphic novel is that Holmes basically sits in his cell for a lot of it, and scurries around once he's out, but readers aren't really allowed to get enough information to solve the case for themselves, nor do we get to see him bounce ideas off of Watson, so we're left in the dark watching the characters, and the ending scenes, where Holmes solves the case for everyone at his trial, fell more than a bit flat because of it. Still, it's interesting reading, but not really up to the level of the actual Conan-Doyle stories. It has an interesting case, but the middle mostly consists of misdirection of the reader, and not much else. It ended up as a "meh" for me.

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