Titan Comics: SHERLOCK: A SCANDAL IN BELGRAVIA Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Tony meets The Woman. Again.

A Scandal In Belgravia, like all the Manga versions of the Sherlock episodes so far, exists in graphic novel form as a kind of gorgeously illogical limbo.

On the one hand, it will chiefly be of interest to people who have seen the original, written by Stephen Moffat, starring almost everybody, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Mark Gatiss and Lara Pulver (as Irene Adler, ‘The Woman’ in Sherlock Holmes’ life). The argument then is sometimes raised that if you have the original version, you could have no possible need for a Manga version in graphic novel format.

Honestly speaking though, that’s like arguing that if you have a housecat, there’s no need for tigers to exist.

The joy about having a Manga version of A Scandal In Belgravia is…well, to have a Manga version of A Scandal In Belgravia. To have it not only in a readable, take-anywhere version, but also to see the blending of significantly different art forms into a joyful augmentation that gives you a sum greater than either of its main component parts.

Jay, the artist and adapter of A Scandal In Belgravia (and the other Sherlock episodes) goes quite far in their hunt for literalism of translation. The scenes here are delivered not only mostly word for word, but usually shot for shot. Why? Because there’s plenty about the 21st century Sherlock that depends on its attitude, its fluidity and its style on those shots, that swiftness of transition and action, and that ridiculous joy of Stephen Moffat’s dialogue. Any adapter with a head on their shoulders is not going to mess with that – especially when translating and selling it back to the English-speaking world. The reason for that is obvious. When something hangs on such swiftness and such precise dialogue, any dips, changes or weaker substitutions will be immediately noticeable, and noticed, and judged with a probably undue harshness.

So Jay keeps close to the original text here, delivering a version of A Scandal In Belgravia that’s entirely recognisable.

On art, Jay has rather more freedom to express themselves, and makes use of that freedom here and there. Cumberbatch and Freeman are more or less entirely recognisable, though they’re given a mild tweak of Manga styling here and there, as part of the blending operation between form and material. Lara Pulver too makes the transition into the Manga version more or less recognisably. It’s not by any means an identikit rendering – if it were, there really would be very little point to the whole thing – but you could certainly look at the version of Irene Adler that you get here, then look at Lara Pulver in the role, and you’d go “Oh, yes, of course that’s her.”

Some other characters and actors are rather more liberally interpreted – there are certainly essences of Mark Gatiss and Rupert Graves in Mycroft and Lestrade respectively, but they’ve been rather more significantly tweaked. Oddly, if anything, they’ve not been particularly subject to the lines of Manga technique, but simply re-rendered, not as if by other actors, but as if they’ve been brought across to this version and allowed to play here in slightly different bodies and faces.

These, too, are reasons to have a Manga version of A Scandal In Belgravia. The little differences inherent in rendering a TV show in a graphic novel format make it worth consuming in that format as well as any other.

In terms of the artwork, there’s a balanced blending here. The Manga style is actually held significantly in check by the truthfully Western nature of many of the characters, though you’ll get the occasional subtle drop into style when Watson laughs, for instance. There’s a joy in shading here, that works in everything from the weave of Sherlock’s coat to the rendering of reflections in people’s eyes, to the modern Sherlock’s habit of showing how Holmes sees the world as an amalgamation of clue-threads – cat-owner, unarmed, nail-biter, nervous? and so on. It makes for a darker overall feel than the original, and of course in black and white artwork, that’s almost a given. The darker vibe is also helped along by having whole panels of what might be called ‘mood shading’ – mostly in darkness with a line or two of dialogue over them – acting as small pauses from the pace of the overall action. For all its Manga bones, this is almost a ‘noir’ version of A Scandal In Belgravia – but the work is strong enough to stand up to that tonal shifting, especially when, as we mentioned, the script is so very closely adhered to.

Bottom line, this is almost the Scandal In Belgravia you remember, but translated into a black and white Manga world where some sound effects appear on the page as characters, with English translations, where some cheekbones are sharper, occasional faces more ambiguously realised than others. Overall though, it’s a great read that will both enhance your memories of the original and, like the true geek you are, also make you want to load up the original and read along, looking for the similarities, the divergences, the differences in interpretation which make for a rich experience.

Get A Scandal In Belgravia from Titan Comics. It’s Sherlock, almost exactly as you remember it, but with new layers of oomph and artwork that will only ever make you grin.

Tony 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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