“Elementary, my dear readers.” It’s time we solved the mystery of Liam Sharp and Bill Sienkiewicz’s motion comics take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective. But how does the Victorian sleuth fare in the 21st century world of digital comics?
Writer: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle/Liam Sharp
Artist: Liam Sharp/Bill Sienkewicz
Price: Free preview, then £1.49 for the full version
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary sleuth is given the Madefire Motion Book treatment this week, with artwork from Madefire co-founder Liam Sharp and legendary artist Bill Sienkewicz. Based on the classic story of The Greek Interpreter which is most notable for the first appearance of Holmes’ brother Mycroft, Sharp’s script is faithful to Doyle’s original, with no post-modern updates or ironic sideways glance in sight. This is Victorian sleuthing at it’s purest and gives Sharp and Sienkewicz’s artwork the neccessary room to be appreciated and enjoyed, which is most welcome because the book looks truly stunning.
Although both are credited with art duties, where one man’s work begins and another’s ends is hard to tell. Sharp is clearly a devotee of Sienkewicz, you only have to look at his recent work on Captain Stone Is Missing to tell that, and The Greek Interpreter features the same high quality mix of multimedia artwork from pen and ink, to oil paint to digital collage and more. Holmes is the fox-like, angular detective of old Basil Rathbone TV series, while the obese Mycroft is giving a truly grotesque portliness for those used to Mark Gatiss’ snearing features on the BBC version. Pages assemble and animate slickly, while text scrolls within and without boxes as we have come to expect from Sharp’s high class Madefire work, and there is no denying it looks sensational with both men revelling in the world they are working in… but there is just something missing.
It could be that the book is dialogue heavy and Sharp and Sienkewicz are overly respectful of the dialogue, which makes it feel as if you are reading an animated book rather than a comic. Or it could be that the story and characters are so familiar that we know what is coming so there is not the thrill and excitement around the corner with every tap. Or it could just be the high standards that we have come to expect from the creator of the ‘Digital Comic of the Year’, however at the end of the day, what’s missing is that it lacks the beats that we expect with a ‘comic’ rather than a ‘book’. This is why comic book writers tweak and re-write the stories to make them fit their respective media, and although Sharp has abridged the story and not repeated it verbatim, there is a chance that Sharp and Sienkiewicz have been too wary of changing such revered source material – which is a surprise from two such innovative talents. This is not to say that The Greek Interpreter is ‘bad’, because it most certainly isn’t, merely that by the high standards set by Sharp and the folk at Madefire this falls just a touch flat.
The Greek Interpreter also marks another milestone in the history of Madefire as one of the first books which requires you to pay to read the content (a preview is available for free and then the rest is made available for £1.49). Traditionally this would be the point in a review where we would make a case for it being ‘value for money’ or not, however Madefire fans have been spoilt with free downloads for over a year now and so to be charged this nominal cost to enjoy the finest digital comics in the world is almost not worth mentioning, as there is no doubt that this is an absolute bargain for the price.
Sharp and Sienkiewicz’s take on Conan Doyles’ legendary sleuth is stunning to look at and faithful to the original, which in the current climate of post-modern revisionism gives it a refreshing air. But by being too faithful it loses some of the thrill that a motion book Holmes should elicit.