Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic detective Sherlock Holmes is enjoying quite the revival in recent years. First, there was the 2009 big-budget film starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law that proved popular enough to justify a sequel arriving in theaters later this year. Then, we were treated to the rather brilliant 2010 BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman that successfully updated the setting to 21st-century London.
So it's no real surprise to see someone try to bring Holmes to comic books, but it is something of a surprise to see Holmes' nemesis, Professor James Moriarty, featured as the lead character with Holmes presumed dead for the past twenty years. Working with the premise that Holmes remained dead after the showdown at Reichenbach Falls in "The Adventure of the Final Problem," thereby ignoring Holmes' return in "The Adventure of the Empty House," writer Daniel Corey reveals what's become of Moriarty during the past twenty years in a world without Holmes.
In this impressive first 32-page story for only $2.99 (a nice bargain there, especially these days), we learn that Moriarty has become "a sort of investigator for the criminal element," setting up an import/export waterfront business under the alias "Mr. Trumbold." Following the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria that triggers World War I, Moriarty is confronted by an "Agent Smith," who supposedly belongs to the Directorate of Military Intelligence Section 5 and asks Moriarty to find Holmes' missing brother, Mycroft. The tale begins to weave into a full mystery, leading Moriarty to discover strange blueprints for the construction of something called a Cella Animi Obscura, a "Dark Chamber of the Mind." Facing the most danger he's felt in twenty years, which may even be supernatural in nature, Moriarty finds himself reborn at long last.
The artwork by Anthony Diecidue is equally intriguing as well. At first glance, it comes as blocky and ugly, but captures the mood and the tone of the story quite effectively. There's a sinister edge to some of the panels, which obviously enhances a character like Moriarty, and some imaginative layouts considering how much text Corey piles into every page. This isn't a book you burn quickly through in just a few minutes, it's something to be savored slowly in order to appreciate all the details.
All in all, a solid first issue for this very promising series. The game's afoot and for now at least, I'm very interested in seeing where it leads...