A Study in Emerald
Writer: Neil Gaiman, Rafael Albuquerque, Rafael Scavone
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque, Dave Stewart
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
A review by Stephanie Pouliotte
In this Lovecraftian reimagining of Holmes’ inaugural investigation, A Study in Emerald has an inscrutable detective walking through the same paces, but the bizarre clues lead him down a wholly different and unexpected path. Gaiman goes beyond simply taking a familiar story into an unfamiliar realm. He’s attuned to the nuance of the characters, finding logic in the illogical as he brings together two worlds that seem, by their nature, incompatible. How can such a rational creature as Sherlock Holmes exist in the madding world of the Great Old Ones?
Instead of trying to alter the characters just enough to suit the setting, Gaiman leans into the paradox, using their famous idiosyncrasies to his advantage. Some of Holmes’ original cases did appear supernatural on the surface, but turned out to be rather ordinary once he removed the veil, revealing common motives and routine execution. In this way, his deductive brilliance is often taken down a peg. Suddenly everything is deemed rather simple and painfully obvious by Watson or Lestrade, despite it being nothing of the sort. After all, who else but Holmes can recall and identify the hue and texture of every kind of dirt, mud or rubble to be found in London? The supernatural setting of A Study in Emerald plays up that shtick to the extreme, as the Baker Street detective routinely rationalizes the bizarre and explains the inexplicable.
Albuquerque’s artwork adds a whole new layer to this strange tale, which was first penned as a short story. Where before the nature of royalty was alluded to with carefully worded descriptions, in these pages we see them for what they truly are. Albuquerque and Stewart maintain the air of mystery by veiling these creatures in shadows and putting them in darkened corners. The detective’s partner, aware of what it means to have “blood royal” without having ever witnessed it in the flesh, is the reader’s yardstick for strangeness, as our brilliant investigator remains as unperturbed as always when faced with the chilling truth.
Buy it! If you’re familiar with Conan Doyle’s original story, you may think you have A Study in Emerald all figured out, but you’ll find you’ve lost your senses before this mysterious horror has come to end.