A Study In Scarlet – Holmes & Watson are back for the first time
The second in SelfMadeHero’s Sherlock Holmes adaptations gets it’s release at almost the perfect time, hot on the heels of the recent big budget, and by all accounts rather entertaining movie outing with Robert Downey and Jude Law. The first in the series; The Hound Of The Baskervilles was released last year and I concluded that:
This is the Holmes of the books, all genius and cunning, relishing the problems to be solved and enjoying the thrill of the chase…. This is the Sherlock Holmes you always imagined when reading the books, this is the voice you always heard.
Study In Scarlet sees both Edginton and Culbard return to the iconic detective and if anything A Study In Scarlet is better than The Hound Of The Baskervilles – it helps that the story is less well known making the whodunnit fresher and more intriguing but both Edginton and Culbard have settled into the rhythms of the work, meaning both adaptation and art are a far more naturalistic and relaxed but effortlessly classy affair.
A Study In Scarlet is where the Holmes legend began – with Watson agreeing to take 221B Baker Street as lodgings with the elusive and mysterious Holmes. The first quarter of A Study In Scarlet is given to observing the two main players size each other up. And for non-Holmes scholars there’s so much of interest, chiefly the observation by Watson that Holmes is far from the all round genius we’ve all come to see him as:
(Watson’s analysis of Holmes’ particularly directed genius from A Study In Scarlet, by Conan Doyle, Edginton and Culbard, published by SelfMadeHero)
The deliberate decision by Edginton to stick closely to the source pays off handsomely – gone is any idea of Holmes as some omniscient genius and Watson merely his bumbling comedy relief – whilst it may be true that Holmes is a genius in many areas of knowledge, he is woefully inept in others and it is quite clear that for the majority of areas of common knowledge, it is Watson who finds himself the intellectual superior. Where Holmes’ does tower over Watson is in the study of his chosen field – chemistry, detection, criminality – a deliberate decision on his part it turns out – he considers his ideaspace too precious to allow stray knowledge on subjects not conducive to his chosen work to intrude.
After this initial sizing up of our characters, we move forward with the whodunnit. The game is afoot; there’s a murder in London, a man’s body discovered in a bloodstained room, yet there’s not a scratch on the body. Scotland Yard, as we might expect, are perplexed.
But the world’s only consulting detective is on the case. All it takes is one more murder and Holmes has the case solved. The final Act occurs post capture, with the murderer explaining his actions in flashback to a tale of love and revenge that spans continents. Both the pursuit of the murderer and his confession are full of excitement and the thrill of the deductive process. Edginton really captures everything that Conan Doyle brought to his prose so very well.
(Watson stands perplexed as Holmes carries out his work as London’s only consulting detective. Wonderfully caracatured figures, opulent background details and even a moment or two of perfect comic timing. From A Study In Scarlet, by Conan Doyle, Edginton and Culbard, published by SelfMadeHero)
Culbard’s art, so gorgeous in The Hound Of The Baskervilles is even better here. The entire story takes place in two locations – London, with much of those scenes occuring inside 221B Baker Street, and on the parched and barren frontier salt plains of Utah. The London scenes are deliciously embellished, with Culbard’s backgrounds almost threatening to steal the show from his figure work. Almost …. but not quite, for his figures are stylish caricatures that create simple, iconic figures, instantly recognisable throughout the book. This simplicity is ever so effective and Culbard shows complete control over both page layout and pacing throughout. Even the colours are subtle yet effective – muted city browns and blues in London give way to sunset oranges and burnt umbers of Utah. And every so often there’s a slash of scarlet, as blood flows across the page, vivid and shocking.
There’s even delightful moments of comedy here – look at poor Watson’s befuddled, blank face in the panels above – that’s a trick Culbard and Edginton aren’t afraid to use when it’s called for – resulting in their audience laughing along at some impossible statement of Holmes’ or his barely concealed sarcasm and contempt for those who he considers beneath him. But he never does it with Watson, more than anything else, what we get from A Study In Scarlet is the beginnings of a great friendship based on mutual respect (although perhaps not mutual understanding) between these two iconic figures.
SelfMadeHero’s Sherlock Holmes is turning out, thanks to the combined brilliance of Mssrs Conan Doyle, Edginton and Culbard, to be a wonderfully entertaining series of books. I can heartily recommend them and I’m already finding myself lamenting the fact that there are just two more in the series after this.