Image Comics has done something rather interesting with their newest release Moriarty, based on the character James Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes. In this series, we get to see Moriarty’s life after he murders Holmes and his turn from a criminal mastermind to a shell of a man living under an assumed name attempting to eke out a living as an investigator for the more unsavory elements of London. Moriarty still bristles with intelligence and wit, but he’s bored of his life and haunted by demons he can’t escape.
For Sherlock Holmes buffs, Moriarty can be a sore subject. Writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created the character simply as a plot device to kill off Holmes, a plot device that was only a focus of two of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. As the adventures of the world’s greatest detective grew and derivative work began to spring up, Moriarty become the yin to Holmes’ yang. Moriarty issue #1 revolves around the grander view of the character, making him the criminal equivalent of Sherlock Holmes. The idea and execution of this comic is excellent, even if there are flaws.
What works here is how writer Daniel Corey reinvents Moriarty and how much depth he gives the character. Here the once brilliant criminal genius is a burnt out old man, referred to as a dinosaur from another age. When Holmes fell, Moriarty lost his great foil and, in essence, lost his real reason for living. A new and rich mystery drops into Moriarty’s lap and the temptation is too great to resist. He bounds into the situation and grows careless, a rarity for a man who analyzes everything. By the end of the story you’re so intrigued by who Moriarty is that you want to follow him to the next issue.
To try and explain the plot of Moriarty #1 would be an exercise in futility. The mystery here is rich with small parts, so much so that I re-read the story three times to get it straight. If God is in the details then his vacation home may lay between these pages. An incredibly cerebral comic, Moriarty’s greatest strength may become its biggest problem. Daniel Corey’s style is incredibly verbose; every single page is thick with the written word. While there is action and movement here, this whole thing could become a bit much for the average comic book reader. Personally I think it’s great to have a comic handled more like a novel, but it may seem like overkill to some.
Anthony Diecidue’s art is absolutely breathtaking. There’s a strong element of fine art to what he’s doing but it never loses that fact that it is a comic book. I was particularly moved by Moriarty’s face. The way Diecidue etched it with these small strokes, it gave the man a world weary look – the way somebody who has seen it all would view a world that bored him. I loved the intricate backgrounds, the noir mood that never became overbearing.
With pages so filled with words, it would be easy to let the art simple lay there as part of the story. Diecidue instead makes the art something separate, something that fills in the blanks. If Corey’s writing carries the intellectual side of Moriarty #1, then Diecidue’s art is responsible for the emotions. His work is the soul of the entire issue. If you loved A League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or Sandman by either Neil Gaiman or Matt Wagner, then you’ll be in love with Moriarty.