Sherlock Holmes: The Vanishing Man #4



VanishingMan4Supposedly 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.”

This article is the opinion of the author and does not represent the views of the site owner.


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For the past forty or so years I have been collecting American comics… To begin with they were predominantly black and white British reprints of “Marvel Comics Group” titles such as “Spider-Man Comics Weekly”, “The Mighty World of Marvel” and “Star Wars Weekly”; all six to ten pence editions I could store away under my bed in a large cardboard box. As a result though I was introduced to the teenage angst of Peter Parker, the discovery of a frozen Captain America by Earth's Mightiest Heroes, witnessed the dreadful rage of Doctor Bruce Banner, and even travelled to a galaxy far far away... Later I would be able to afford actual America colour comic books and supplemented my collection of “Marvel” titles such as “Conan the Barbarian”, “Howard the Duck” and “Captain America” with some “DC Comics” issues of “Batman”, “Green Lantern” and “Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew”. There would even be time for Independent publications such as “Wildcats”, “Spawn” and “The Authority”. These days however I must admit to yearning back to the simpler times of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, back to when both artwork and storylines were straightforward, easy to follow and super-heroes were just starting out on their adventures. A time when no-one had yet to be resurrected from the dead for the fourth time. I've written over seven hundred comic book reviews on my blog over the past few years, with them usually following my latest purchases, all wrapped up in a large brown paper bag, as well as occasional ‘flashbacks’ to some of the classic "Golden Age" issues I already own…

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