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Comic Book Review

Book Cover

The Great Game #1


Writer/co-creator: Mark Gatiss
Co-creator: Steven Moffat
Artist: Jay.
Publisher: Titan Comics
RRP: UK £2.65, US $4.99
Age: 12+
48 pages
Publication Date: 09 August 2017

Sherlock Holmes and his flatmate/friend John Watson have been developing a crime-solving partnership. They have solved the ‘Study in Pink’ crimes, where a series of murders were made to look like suicides, and the case of ‘The Blind Banker’, in which killings were accompanied by mysterious symbols. Now Sherlock has been given what he always wanted – a puzzle. But has he finally met his match…?

Yes, it’s the episode that we (and, I suspect, the adapter Jay.) have all been waiting to get to: The Great Game, the first of at least three occasions in which the Sherlock production team have approached The Final Problem. However, before we get to the Final Problem parts of the story (in later issues of this six-partington manga adaptation), writer/co-creator Mark Gatiss works in a number of other elements from the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

For example, the bored Sherlock at the beginning of this tale, in a queer humour similar to that described in The Musgrave Ritual, proceeds to shoot holes in the wall of his flat. In the modern episode, his landlady Mrs Hudson is understandably miffed about this. “What have you done to my bloody wall?” she exclaims. “I’m putting this on your rent, young man.”

Sherlock’s criticism of the lack of interest currently being provided by “the criminal classes” echoes stories such as The Copper Beeches, in which Holmes declared that, “Man, or at least criminal man, has lost all enterprise and originality.” That adventure is also one of several in which Holmes criticises Watson’s write-ups of his cases, as Sherlock does here.

As in A Study in Scarlet, the detective deliberately keeps his mind free of ‘clutter’ such as the knowledge that the earth revolves around the sun, much to his flatmate’s amazement. However, whereas the original Holmes likened his brain to an attic, the 21st-century Sherlock speaks in terms of disk space: “Listen. This is my hard drive, and it only makes sense to put things in there that are useful, really useful. Ordinary people fill their heads with all kinds of rubbish, and that makes it hard to get at the stuff that matters… So we go around the sun! If we went around the moon or round and round the garden like a teddy bear, it wouldn’t make any difference. All that matters to me is the work. Without that, my brain rots. Put that in your blog.”

Despite Sherlock’s disdain for John’s writing, he reveals his fondness for his friend when he says that “I’d be lost without my blogger.” This echoes Holmes’s “I am lost without my Boswell”, from A Scandal in Bohemia. The detective’s comment about some stationery being “Bohemian” is also from that story.

Moving beyond characterisation to the actual plot, the death of a civil servant called West, whose body was found near the tracks of the London Underground, and the loss of top-secret defence information that he had been carrying, is based on The Bruce-Partington Plans. And a cryptic message involving five pips of the Greenwich Time Signal is a clever reworking of The Five Orange Pips, involving an entertaining use of the homonym “pip”.

Meanwhile, Jay.’s little sound effects for silent actions, which used to give me the pip in earlier adaptations, no longer bother me. On the contrary, I found one of them particularly amusing at the start of this issue: the “Glance” that Sherlock gives a suspect when he corrects his own grammar, having had several previous errors picked up by the detective.

Something that does not immediately come across on reading this comic book is the fact that the explosion on Baker Street took out the building opposite 221B, rather than Sherlock’s flat itself. It doesn’t help that a large image of the devastated street, which would have occupied the centre of a spread in the original Japanese manga (which read back to front and right to left), is split in this English translation between the left-hand side of page 18 and the right-hand side of page 19.

That imperfection aside, this is a great adaptation of a rich confection of an episode, which will leave you game for more.


Richard McGinlay

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