The Sign Of The Four – Edginton & Culbard return, with expected style, to Baker Street.
The third outing for Edginton and Culbard’s most enjoyable Sherlock Holmes adventures and by this point, after my fullsome praise for the first two volumes (Hound Of The Baskervilles and A Study In Scarlet), it’s hardly a surprise to find that I thought that The Sign Of The Four was every bit as good as the first two.
After all, at this stage, Edginton and Culbard are hardly likely to either change a winning formula or start taking vast liberties with Conan Doyle’s original. Instead they’ve produced another excellent adaptation.
In The Sign Of The Four, we see Holmes (and Doyle) on sparkling form in a story that was written at speed, less than a month after the contract for this second of Holmes’ cases was secured.
It’s a fast tale as well, starting off with one of the most infamous of Holmes’ vices, as we join Holmes and Watson at 221B Baker Street with Holmes twitchy from the 7 per cent solution he’s given to taking to stave off the intense and miserable moods he endures when there’s nothing to occupy his mind.
(Much to Watsons’ disapproval, Holmes’ mind seeks whatever stimulation it can take, and in the absense of a case worthy of his attention, it’s a return to the seven per cent solution. From Edginton and Culbard’s The Sign Of The Four, published by SelfMadeHero)
Salvation comes in the form of Miss Mary Morstan, with an amazing story of her father, his disappearance 10 years ago and a series of pearls, one each year, delivered by parties unknown. Now Miss Morstan has been contacted by someone claiming that she is “a wronged woman and shall have justice”. Holmes is, of course, intrigued…..
What follows is a wonderfully crafted, yet very simple tale of greed and betrayal, with Holmes at his absolute best. The Sign Of The Four takes all of the essential elements to a Holmes tale and puts them in front of the reader in a thrilling story; the interplay between Holmes and Watson, the playful, deduction games, the troubled psyche of the world’s greatest detective, the intriguing case, the irregulars – it’s all here.
(An intriguing case, and the mental shackles are cast off. The game is afoot once more. From Edginton and Culbard’s The Sign Of The Four, published by SelfMadeHero)
These Sherlock Holmes adaptations do exactly what they should, taking everything that was thrilling and entertaining to readers of Conan Doyle’s most famous unofficial consulting detective and produce a graphic novel adaptation that remains faithful to the source. And that’s all down to the skill and craft of the adapters.
Edginton’s writing is unobtrusive enough to make it feel like Conan Doyle’s work, yet strong enough to adapt the prose for comics form, shifting to a different style and pace and never once losing what made the original story such a success. Whilst Culbard’s art is, once again, quite gorgeous. Cartoony in style, yet full of wonderful expressions and carefully studied body language with perfect, smooth, flowing storytelling. It’s not a classical look for Holmes, but it’s a look that works so well.
Hopefully SelfMadeHero are finding the Sherlock Holmes series is a great success, it certainly deserves to be. The proposed fourth volume in the series; The Valley Of Fear (featuring arch Holmes villain Professor Moriarty) is due to be released in February 2011. Sadly, it’s also due to be the last. I’m keeping fingers crossed that the success of these marvellously done graphic novels will encourage SelfMadeHero to talk Edginton and Culbard into adapting more of Conan Doyle’s tales of the world’s best detective.
(The Sign Of The Four is due out next week, perfectly timed to catch the Sherlock Holmes buzz following Steven Moffat’s BBC1 Sunday night prime time adventure)