When Sherlock first premiered in 2010, the modern day version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic detective took the world – and perhaps, more specifically, internet fandom – by storm. Not since the earliest publications of Doyle’s stories had Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson been such popular characters, catapulting the careers of both its stars, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, as well s furthering those of creators, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss.
In the years that followed, Sherlock continues to be one of the BBC’s most popular and profitable series – even when (or perhaps because?) fans must wait years between the show’s notoriously short seasons. To placate fans desperate for more Sherlock, several of the original Doyle stories were re-released with tie-in artwork and introductions from Moffat and Gatiss, as well as a couple of companion books for the TV series. But perhaps what’s most telling of Sherlock‘s international appeal is the manga adaptation by Jay., which in 2012 was serialized in Kadokawa’s Young Ace magazine.
Now debuting in English for both U.S. and U.K. readers, the Sherlock manga is getting a monthly release through Titan Comics. Retaining both its Japanese presentation (read left to right) and sound effects, the Sherlock manga kicks off its run this Wednesday, June 8th with Sherlock: A Study In Pink #1. And as you can surely deduce from the title, the series begins by adapting the first episode of Sherlock series 1, breaking the episode into chapters for each issue.
Sherlock: A Study in Pink #1 is delightful interpretation of Sherlock and John’s first meeting. The issue starts slow, much like the episode it’s adapting, but once the two are introduced and later meet at 221B Baker St., the interaction and rapport that fans enjoy so much is readily apparent. This shouldn’t be too surprising – after all, the manga is adapting the story straight from Moffat and Gatiss’ scripts, so what was enjoyable there should prove just as much the case here.
As for how the characters translate to manga, the style does certainly lend itself to Sherlock’s unhinged outbursts, giving him a mad quality that not even Cumberbatch’s performance quite reached. Jay.’s illustrations also play up the more mischievous side of Sherlock, often depicting him with an exaggerated smirk to go along with whatever smart aleck comment. John, however, doesn’t appear nearly as expressive as he could throughout the issue, with only a few panels really capturing his dumbfoundedness or exasperation. Still, it definitely works to the book’s advantage that Jay. chose to keep the artwork more in line with a traditional manga style than try for a realistic likeness of the actors.
Besides simply being a version of the Victorian detective set in the modern day, Sherlock also strove to present itself as much as it could for modern audiences. On the show this is most apparent in its use of text messaging (as oppose to telegrams and letters), but also whenever Sherlock would investigate a crime scene or analyze some new piece of information, depicting the deduction through onscreen text as Sherlock reasoned his way through it. That detail, however, doesn’t necessarily translate for a medium already reliant on print, and only the opening scene utilizes a different look for the incoming barrage of “Wrong!” texts.
That being said, the Sherlock manga does benefit from using the manga style of sound effects, which unlike those of Western comics, aren’t always sounds like “Blam!” or “Whoosh!”, but are more akin to stage directions. These can range from actual sounds like “Creak” or “Click”, to actions like “Leap”, “Smile”, or my personal favorite, “Brandish”, when John first hands Sherlock his phone.
When the book really leans into the details that make manga distinct from Western comics, Sherlock: A Study In Pink #1 is a treat, proving itself unique among so many sequential art adaptations of television programs. However, this comic doesn’t necessarily hold much appeal for anyone unfamiliar with the Sherlock TV series and I wouldn’t recommend it as a jumping on point – unless you’re just a huge fan of both detective stories and manga, but in that case, there’s surely more original manga worth checking out. Still, Sherlock: A Study In Pink #1 is sure to please fans, especially those desperate for anything Sherlock in the months between now and series 4.
Sherlock: A Study In Pink #1 releases this Wednesday, June 8th and is available for purchase at your local comic book store (Don’t know where that is? Here you go.), from Things From Another Universe, or digitally via Comixology.com.