Titan Comics - SHERLOCK: A STUDY IN PINK #1 Review

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Tony assesses the evidence for buying the new Sherlock comic.

Occasionally – only very occasionally – a product comes along in a geek’s life that gives a peek behind the veil of marketing.

The goal of marketing is to sell. The product is largely irrelevant. All you need is for it to have a hook into enough brains that they’ll give you money for it.

There’s a whiff of blatant marketing about the Sherlock comic-book. It’s a whiff mostly composed of the fact that whereas, say, the Doctor Who or Heroes comic-book series add new adventures to the TV versions that are freely available, bringing extra context and advancing the stories we know, Sherlock – A Study In Pink is…prreeeeetty much a shot-by-shot, black and white version of the TV show, only, given the nature of interpretative artwork, slightly less good.

If you’re a Sherlock fan – if you’re at all motivated to pick this comic-book up, in fact – you’ll already have seen a proper, coloured-in, moving-pictures version of its storyline, which is better. There’s no clearer way to say it than that – this is little more than a cash-in.

Now, maybe, just maybe, the plan down the line is that to spin away from the TV stories and give us new Sherlock adventures in the comic-book medium. At the point at which it does that, you’d better believe I’ll be grabbing my deerstalker of tedious gittery and doing a very awkward happy dance. But until then, the ultimate question of ‘What the hell is the point of this?’ is likely to be firmly uppermost in many fans’ minds. And the answer remains the same – it’s marketing, working on your need to be a completist. It’s Sherlock merch for the buying, scurry along little geek and buy it.

Except really speaking, that’s too harsh a judgment. The real story is on the inside front cover. This is a comic-book shot-for-shot representation of the first Sherlock story (with occasional jiggery-pokery) that was first released in Japan, in Japanese, and is now being made available in the Western market. The language-change makes a kind of sense of its original existence – imagine Sherlock in your native, non-English language and it begins to be something desirable, something after which it would be understandable to clamour. There’s still that whiff of completism about it being released in the UK market, but at least its original creation makes some sense once you understand the point of it being in a different language.

Looking more at what you actually get for your money, well – it’s a Steven Moffat script, adapted for comic-books by the enigmatic Jay. The artwork is black and white, and a strange mixture – the architecture’s quite intensely detailed, the people and faces relatively effective but uncomplicated – there’s little intensity about the expressions people wear, but nevertheless they pass muster in terms of conveying the emotional note of each scene.

One thing that’s crucially important to remember when reading this comic-book if you still want to have hair at the end of it is that it’s Japanese – which means you need to read each panel or panel-group from right to left, not left to right as in the Western tradition. Just believe us, it makes a lot more sense once you remember that. It also comes with occasional ‘stage directions’ intact in Japanese, with translations handily squirrelled away on the page wherever they can be fitted. So what you end up with is something of a cross-cultural comic-book experience – the artistic style avoids any pull towards the likes of Manga, and the subject matter is distinctly British, but the reading style has been shifted to the Eastern tradition and the art overlaid with these little snippets of Japanese. In a way, it’s like having bought a pirated DVD of A Study In Pink, re-cut for the Japanese market and dubbed into the local language. Again, it’s a great curio to have, an interesting talking point, but you can’t really escape that feeling of its existence in your collection making jussssst a tiny bit of a mug of you.

There are some solid ‘portrait’ shots in this issue, most notably, as you’d expect, of Sherlock and Watson, as the first handful of minutes of A Study In Pink unfold before you in a notable absence of pink, or any other colours. There are a couple of ‘added value’ panels too, reaction panels which give thoughts to things never verbalised in the show itself, but which nail it to the page in the storytelling conventions of comic-bookery.

But while it’s an interesting thing to have, it’s also worth bearing in mind that issue #1 is part one of six in A Study In Pink alone, let alone any of the other episodes. The question of whether or not you should buy this one doesn’t really come down to whether you love Sherlock – that’s a given before you even pick this up off the shelf. It’s more a question of how much disposable income you have to invest in a curio version of some of your favourite episodes, which you probably already own in their original format anyway. If you’ve got the cash to spare, or are a freakish Sherlock completist, then this release does deliver some interesting new touches to a story you know inside out and backwards. If you’re just a regular Sherlock fan, you might as well just slip the DVD in your player and enjoy A Study In Pink in its untranslated form.

Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk

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