‘Neil Gaiman’s A Study in Emerald:’ Advance Hardcover Review

Dark Horse Comics continues its run of Neil Gaiman's adapted graphic novels from incredibly talented writers and artists. Some are absolutely worthwhile digging into, bringing to life thought-provoking and interesting worlds, while others are fun trifles that don’t amount to much, except the pure pleasure of reading them.  Some feel unnecessary, more like writing exercises than stories that have real heft and weight. Here, Rafael Albuquerque has the honor of adapting Gaiman’s A Study in Emerald. I say it falls more in the middle, aspiring, at times, to be the first category (thanks to Albequerque’s incredible artistic talents) and threatening to become the final category, but Albuquerque does a good job of keeping that balance.

A Study in Emerald is a “what if?” The “what if” Gaiman is exploring is what if the worlds of H.P Lovecraft and Sherlock Holmes collided. My first thought is “Cool!” The great detective is no longer Holmes here (We never learn his real name.), and the doctor is no longer Watson, though that isn’t to say Watson doesn’t exist in this world. This Sherlock’s Watson also went to war, and the atrocities he suffered were at the hands of a tentacled, old god-like being. The royalty are also green-skinned, tentacled Lovecraftian monsters who seem to have empathy for humanity or at least a respect for this Holmes figure. Another sequence is a downright creepy play about Cthulhu coming. That’s the depths to which this adaptation truly combines the two worlds. The rest is a pretty straight forward adaptation of Holmes’ first story. I don’t blame Albuquerque or his adaptation partner Rafael Scavone for not pushing the worlds together in a way that really tested the mettle and myth of Holmes; that’s on Gaiman for being a bit too careful perhaps with the Holmes mythology or not starting this story further into the series of events. The story feels mostly like a tease for things to come…that as far as I know, never do…

What it does do is really make a hero out of Holmes. Instead of going up against mad geniuses, he’s going up against the old gods. That takes guts! I’d love to see more stories told in this world. Imagine Holmes being pushed to opium addiction to deal with the onset of madness in a Lovecraftian world. The seed being planted is one of a fan’s hopes and dreams.

Where this adaptation really succeeds is Albuquerque’s gorgeous artwork and Dave Stewart’s lush colors. These two are currently gods among artists. Seeing their work combine wonder twin-style is a real treat, especially if you’re a Gaiman fan looking to see this world come to life. The most haunting passages involve our narrator coming into contact with the Lovecraftian beings and the dank cityscapes of London. It’s a beautiful book, one I can’t wait to hold in my hands. Here’s hoping the two are inspired to continue this series, basing it on Gaiman’s original work.

Creative Team: Neil Gaiman (story), Rafael Albuquerque (art, adaptation), Rafael Scavone (adaptation), Dave Stewart (colors), Todd Klein (letters)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
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