When I found out that Neil Gaiman was releasing a new graphic novel I instantly knew that I’d be picking it up. The man is a master in the industry and his work rarely, if ever, disappoints. From his early work on “Miracleman” to his acclaimed run on “Sandman,” Gaiman brings a unique and eccentric flair to his stories. This marks his work as not only some of the best in the industry, but some of the most memorable as well.
Written by Neil Gaiman, with Rafael Scavone
Illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque & Dave Stewart
This supernatural mystery set in the world of Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos features a brilliant detective and his partner as they try to solve a horrific murder.
The complex investigation takes the Baker Street investigators from the slums of Whitechapel all the way to the Queen’s Palace as they attempt to find the answers to this bizarre murder of cosmic horror!
“A Study in Emerald” was written by Gaiman in 2003. It was originally released as a short story in the prose anthology “Shadows Over Baker Street.” This collection brought together various authors as they gave modern renditions for works inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle and H. P. Lovecraft. Amazingly, the story had not been adapted since. While the tale could easily be spun into a movie or play, we have the benefit of seeing it first in comic form. A fitting destination since the medium has been so transformed by Gaiman.
In reading the story one needs only a passing knowledge of Sherlock Holmes to quickly spot the similarities. Yet, the Easter Eggs found within this love letter go far deeper. Cursory connections such as the title, which references the original Holmes novel “A Study in Scarlet,” are easily spotted. Additionally, those with a true understanding of Holmes can spot Gaiman’s interweaving of details between Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet” and his “A Study in Emerald.” These details are far beyond my knowledge base for the character, yet when researching the book I was quite impressed by the great lengths that Gaiman takes to fully vet the tale. In no case should a reader need further cementing of Gaiman’s love for his craft. However, in case you erroneously did, the magnificent details found within “A Study in Emerald” should erase all doubts.
Bringing this story to life within the four-color page is Rafael Albuquerque & Dave Stewart. The artwork is moody and subtle, opting for darker grey tones which serve as a perfect backdrop for the intense colorful splashes that highlight the story’s high points. Without falling into pre-established Victorian tropes, the pair creates a tight setting for the story which instantly transports you to the late 19th century. Further, their treatment of the supernatural characters bring with them a truly creepy, and sometimes evil sense. It is impossible to denote that a particular art style can perfectly match a story, but in this case it certainty feels like they are impeccably joined.
If there’s a shortcoming to “A Study in Emerald” it’s that there isn’t enough. At around 80-pages, one can easily breeze through the tale in a single sitting. The story is so captivating though, we can only hope for further stories from Gaiman’s Holmes and Watson doppelgangers. Having been adapted by Rafael Scavone, maybe he’d be willing to take the reins of their pair’s further adventures? Regardless, while we can always hope for more, we should take time to bask in what we have. And what that is, is a wonderful tale written by one of comic’s true greats that should be read by all fans of Gaiman himself, and the comic medium as a whole.