In all of fiction, every classic hero has at least one villain who distinguishes themselves above all others. Victories over classic villains are what makes our heroes necessary in the first place, and in time, each character becomes defined by the other’s presence. One such landmark pairing, that of the detective Sherlock Holmes and Professor James Moriarty, has survived several decades and has seen portrayal in many mediums. In Image Comics Moriarty Vol. 1: The Dark Chamber, writer Daniel Corey examines the world surrounding the erstwhile antagonist after his counterpart’s demise.
In the world of Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes has been dead for twenty years, and the seeds of World War I have been sewn. James Moriarty’s station in life has changed, feeling lost after Holmes’ death. He had thought he wanted the world, but without Holmes around to validate his scheming, he turns to a quieter, disaffected life on the fringe of the underground to pass the time. A man by the name of ‘Smith’ uncovers Moriarty and charges him with locating Mycroft Holmes, brother to Sherlock and lynchpin in a layered, fantastical mystery. On his journey, Moriarty must retread much of his past, make allies of old enemies, and decipher who and what it is that has everyone so scared of the name Tartarus.
Though filled with exciting scenes of sci-fi-inspired action, the book’s best moments lie in the dialogue-driven moments where Moriarty’s characterization in a post-Holmes world is explored. Though he leaves no doubt that Moriarty is one of the greatest villainous minds the world has ever known, Corey succeeds in finding sympathy for the now-defunct mastermind. Though never down and out, when Holmes died, so did a key element to Moriarty. The deeper he gets into the chase, the faster he unravels the plot, the more we begin to see the man that stood toe-to-toe with literature’s greatest detective mind. The book is perfectly accented by Anthony Diecidue‘s textured, shadowy artwork. Each panel is treated to a unique look while maintaining the integrity of the time period.
Longtime fans will love all of Corey’s allusions and references to Holmes lore. He has a distinct love for these characters, one that aids his storytelling without getting lost in reference. Even without foreknowledge of the characters, Moriarty stands as a grand period mystery that will keep you enthralled until the last panel.
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