by Leah Moore, John Reppion and Aaron Campbell
There are two ways to go with any classic icon such as Holmes; either reinterpret an existing Holmes tale, as with SelfMade Hero’s series (reviewed here) or, as is the case with The Trial Of Sherlock Holmes, take the riskier option of creating a completely new story.
But here, the risk has paid off handsomely, and whilst it may not be up there with Conan Doyle, this first volume of a series of new Sherlock Holmes tales by the writing team of Reppion and Moore is certainly true to the spirit of the classics and nearly as enthralling.
(Holmes and Watson in familiar scenes, discussing the case that will see Holmes accused of murder. From The Trial Of Sherlock Holmes, art by Aaron Campbell, published Dynamite Entertainment)
The story is a simple one, played out over five chapters, with Holmes being the unwitting victim of a locked room mystery. Called in to consult with a dreadfully ill former assistant police commissioner, Holmes finds himself in the difficult position of holding the smoking gun over the bedside of a dead man, who seems to be in possession of papers alleging that Holmes and the infamous Moriarty are actually one and the same. I hope I’m not giving anything away here by revealing that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, Holmes is ever bit as innocent as he protests. Because the guilt or innocence of Holmes isn’t the mystery here, it’s all about the search for the truth behind the dead body in the locked room.
(Could it really be? Could Holmes be the murderer? Could Holmes and Moriarty be one and the same? ….. Of course not. That’s not the point. The fun is in the journey towards the final proof of innocence. From The Trial Of Sherlock Holmes, art by Aaron Campbell, published Dynamite Entertainment)
Holmes is arrested on murder charges and both Inspector Lestrade and Doctor Watson seem powerless to help their old colleague and friend. But Holmes’ intellect and formidable determination quickly come to play, he escapes from incarceration and sets about putting everything in place to finally reveal the truth at his own trial.
Put like that, the story seems rather lightweight and flimsy. But the story is far more than it’s plot here. This is all about the games being played behind the scenes as Holmes struggles to carry out his investigation whilst staying ahead of his recapture until he deems it necessary. And in that Moore and Reppion have spun this plot light story out rather expertly, making every page a potential clue for those of us attempting to work out the mystery before the great detective reveals all in the final chapter. And, once you’ve finished it, you’ll be wanting to go back through the book, spotting everything that was laid out before you, if only you’d have been looking in just the right place.
(Holmes finally gets his day in court and the whole plot is revealed. From The Trial Of Sherlock Holmes, art by Aaron Campbell, published Dynamite Entertainment)
The characterisation of all the main cast is spot on, with Holmes, although on the back foot by his incarceration, still having the chance to display his usual cold, deductive reasoning before making his grand resolution to the case. Watson is handled as the stout and dependable friend, not an equal, but certainly not the bumbling oaf he’s often mistaken for. There are well handled appearances from Lestrade and Mrs Hudson and a subtle, cold and potentially cleverer elder Holmes brother in Mycroft as well.
The art from Aaron Campbell is solid stuff, certainly more than up to the task of keeping everything moving along, his handling of both slower, dialogue heavy expositionary scenes and the infrequent action sequences perfectly in keeping with the style and feel of the story. Mention must go to colourist Tony Avina as well, for the subtle and mysterious colouring throughout the series, very nice work.
It’s a worthy addition to the Sherlock Holmes canon, and the hardback, along with it’s plentiful extras would make a great present for any Holmes fan. But it’s also a good, solid comic story, whether you like Holmes or not. The extras here include scripts, artwork, an afterword by world renowned Holmes scholar Leslie S. Klinger and an original Conan Doyle Holmes short story – The Devil’s Foot – illustrated by Campbell. It’s perhaps the greatest compliment I can give to Moore, Reppion and Campbell’s comic story that the presence of a Conan Doyle original does nothing to diminish the enjoyment of their own original work.