REVIEW: “Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia Part One” by Steven Moffat and Jay

I enjoyed BBC’s Sherlock when it aired. Like any long-running show, it had its ups and downs; its good parts and its bad ones. While the last season of the show may not have been great, its earlier brilliance was not erased. In fact, I believe the show peaked in its second season. Those three episodes were Sherlock working on all cylinders. This is what interested me in this manga adaptation of the season’s first episode, A Scandal in Belgravia. Adapted and illustrated by Jay, this volume adapts the first half of the episode. As an adaptation, it’s fine. The artwork is neat and much of the episode’s wit is retained, but some of the show’s charm and visual flair are lost in translation. (4 out of 5 wands.)

Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia Part One (written by Steven Moffat, adapted and illustrated by Jay)
Fresh from confronting Moriarty in the end of The Great Game, Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and John Watson (Martin Freeman) are called to save the royal family from blackmail at the hands of Irene Adler (Lara Pulver), a dominatrix known as “The Woman”. Adler pulls Sherlock into a complex web of mysteries involving the CIA and the MOD, with secrets that could threaten to threaten international security and topple the monarchy.

I have no interest in reviewing A Scandal in Belgravia‘s story – it’s a faithful adaptation of an eight-year-old piece of television. Instead, I want to talk about how the manga adapts the material. Much of Steven Moffat’s script is completely carried over, with the dialogue coming directly from the script – though a bit abridged, I suspect. Everything plays out exactly as you remember it; plot points and iconic changes are unchanged. As a result, the manga feels distinctly Sherlock. It’s a case of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” and Jay adheres to that.

The artwork, however, is where most of the changes come into play. On the positive end of things, Jay’s artwork is solid. He does a great job of capturing the look of the show, and most of its characters. His Sherlock and Watson look remarkably close to Cumberbatch and Freeman, though some other characters don’t quite look like their on-screen counterparts. He finds a nice balance between maintaining the atmospheres of both the show and of a traditional manga. His characters are expressive and his environments are full of life. On the whole, his artwork is solid. It serves the story well and it’s easy to follow.

Where the artwork falters a bit is in capturing the show’s unique visual flair. Much of Sherlock‘s appeal was its distinct cinematography and visual effects and, unfortunately, most of that has been lost in this adaptation. In fairness to Jay, these elements are the hardest to capture in still images, especially when you’re drawing in an art form as stylized as manga. However, I found myself missing these elements greatly as I read the volume. They played an important part in making the show feel special and without them, everything feels more pedestrian. It doesn’t ruin the experience of reading the manga, but their absence is felt.

At the end of the day, Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia Part 1 is a solid adaptation of the first half of the episode. The script is mostly unchanged, retaining much of the episode’s dialogue, narrative, and wit. The artwork is solid, with Jay capturing the show’s atmosphere and the character’s likenesses well. Some of the show’s charm and visual flair gets lost in translation, but it’s still a fun read for those wishing to revisit the episode. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who’s never seen the show, but for fans? It’s fun.

4 out of 5 wands.

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