Adapting pre-existing things to comics can be hard, and more often than not something will end up being cut out to make sure that the broad strokes fit the length the creators are given. I’m struggling to really think of any film adaptations that don’t fall afoul of this. However, the first part of manga Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia manages to stay pretty close to the source material and includes most of what’s in the episode.
The manga follows the same plot as the first episode of the second series of the BBC show, and sees Sherlock and John brought in to a very delicate case to try to retrieve compromising photographs of a young royal from a dominatrix, Irene Adler. This simple task ends up becoming more complex than the duo expected when Adler proves to be a more than capable match for the detective.
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The artwork for the book is provided courtesy of Jay, and they do a great job at not only capturing the actors’ likenesses, but also recreating a lot of the energy of the series. The scenes where the leads are taking out a room full of CIA agents manages to capture a lot of the flash and dynamic energy that the sequence has in the show. And this is by no means the only place in the book where this happens. Jay is able to capture a lot of the visual style that makes the series stand out in some very subtle ways, and many of the scenes have a sense of movement and energy to them, even if they’re quite static moments.
Whilst the artwork is great, and really elevates the book, much like the show it’s the writing that lets things down with this story. In the original story, ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’, Sherlock and Watson are the bad guys. They’ve been hired by a king to steal a photograph from his mistress so that she has no evidence of their relationship. This woman genuinely loved the king, and has the photo as a keepsake, and doesn’t intend to do anything malicious. But Gatiss and Moffat have changed things to make Irene the villain, to make her a sexy antagonist.
Irene Adler became an iconic Sherlock Holmes character because she managed to outsmart Holmes, and he gained a great deal of respect for her because of her resourcefulness and smart mind. Over the years other adaptations have had Holmes falling in love with her, and Sherlock really pushes this idea to the point where I just really wished this version of Irene had a completely different name, because this is not Irene Adler.
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There are a few moments like this throughout the book, moments where the story goes just a bit too far and tries to be too clever and flashy. The montage of the different cases that are being presented to Sherlock, and his attitude towards them is just bad (yes, I know this comes back later on but that doesn’t make it great), and the whole scene at Buckingham Palace is amusing at first, but the pettiness and snark goes on just a bit too long for it to be charming. And the boomerang mystery. Dear god the boomerang mystery. I don’t think I can explain just how bad this whole thing is, a man is killed by a boomerang for god sake.
Despite these flaws – and I would say that the story has some glaring flaws – this is down to the original series, not the work done her by Jay. Jay has managed to translate the show incredibly well, and if you enjoy the series you’re going to really like this book.
Sherlock: A Scandal In Belgravia is out on 23rd September from Titan Comics.