Supposedly bringing this “Dynamite Entertainment” mystery “to its shocking conclusion”, Leah Moore and John Reppion’s script for Issue Four of “Sherlock Holmes: The Vanishing Man” certainly must have given its audience a surprise or two with its train-based antics, downright bloody fisticuffs and gratifying gun-play. Yet whilst the authors’ narrative is undeniably action-packed the bombshells it provides aren’t disappointingly related to guileful penmanship but rather the duo’s dearth of dexterity and astonishingly lack-lustre motivation behind just why “the all-too-clever Moriarty” was arranging “regular, fortnightly burials here at Brookwood.”
For starters the person behind Michael Williams’ disappearance is revealed to be none other than the mislaid man’s wife, who as a result of disguising herself with a fake moustache and eye-glasses “was able to secure a wage more than double that of a female clerk.” However, this exposé was sadly evident right from the mini-series’ opening instalment when it became clear the title’s plot was disconcertingly influenced by Arthur Conan Doyle’s December 1891 short “The Man With The Twisted Lip”, and resultantly the only jolt it brings it that it’s taken the private detective so long to confront his client as to the truth of the matter, especially when he reveals “I knew that you and Michael were one and the same” when he first saw a photograph of him during his initial investigation.
Equally as unenjoyable is the disclosure that this entire farce was as a result of the pony-tailed office worker discovering “an anomaly in the accounts” involving Moriaty using the “coffins ferried via the Necropolis Railway” to secretively dispose of his operatives, like Hookham and Withers, when “their services [were] no longer required.” The lethal hubbub surrounding the Professor closing down this seemingly straightforward venture must surely have struck many within this twenty-two page periodical’s audience as being illogically ‘over-the-top’, and arguably as contrived as the publication’s finale, when having supposedly taken young Bertram Wiggins under his wing, the maniacal mathematical scholar leaves the child at Sherlock’s lodgings dying from cyanide-laced Turkish Delight; “Here, take the bag if you like. I fear Mister Holmes takes you for granted my boy. And so, I must perforce remind him…”
Arguably though, this book’s biggest fault is in its jarring re-imagining of the franchise’s two central antagonists’ first meeting. Original publicised as an ‘unrecorded adventure’ within the canon, the writing collaborators’ script sacrilegiously subverts the pair’s famous confrontation in “The Final Problem” and instead disrespectfully depicts the men meeting in the murderous private tutor’s study, so that an over-confident, arrogant Moriarty can boastfully challenge a somewhat crestfallen Holmes to “beat me… if you can.”