Comic books based on a translation of a manga series, based on a television show, based on a character created 130 years ago. Is Sherlock: The Blind Banker #1 going to be a walk in the park? It’s elementary, my dear Reader.
Previously Sherlock: Sherlock is a loose adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, taking place in the modern day. “The Blind Banker” follows Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and John Watson (Martin Freeman) as they investigate a series of ciphers representing numbers in an ancient Chinese numeral system which have been left by a Chinese smuggling ring who seem intent on killing to retrieve an item that one of them stole. – Wikipedia
MANGA LEFT, RIGHT?
Don’t try to decipher the opening sentence of this review. The journey this issue took to get in our hands is a long and complex one. But the confusion doesn’t stop there, as this translation still uses the original manga layout, but allows the reader to read the book front to back. While many publishers will have the reader read from “back to front” in order to keep the panel layout and reading experience consistent, that doesn’t happen here. To make matters worse, readers are still required to read right to left in the pages. Without getting into a discussion of the right or wrong way to present an English adaptation of a Japanese manga series, let’s just say that it is going to take some readers a long time and a lot of concentration to get through the issue.
I haven’t watched the Sherlock episode this series is based on, so I couldn’t tell you if this is faithful to the source material or not. It probably doesn’t matter, because those reading this series are probably in it for Manga Cumberbatch and Manga Freeman, or are simply interested in reading a Sherlock Holmes mystery. For this reviewer, the first issue starts off with a locked room mystery involving the vandalizing of a dead bank officer’s office in the middle of the night. As Holmes proceeds to investigate, it is clear that someone is doing this to send a message, but he hasn’t tied it to a larger crime, yet. It’s a mystery I can get behind. For a non-Sherlock viewer, I’m intrigued.
The characters seem on model with how they are portrayed on the television show, so writer Stephen Thompson get’s points for nailing the characters.
MANGA ART, RIGHT?
Yes, the art in this issue is the same art that originally appeared in the manga series from Kodakawa. The caricatures of actors Cumberbatch and Freeman is eerily on model, so again, kudos go to the artist for nailing this look.Titan Comics doesn’t look like they’ve done alterations to the art at all. Even the sound effects are left in the original Japanese – the translation of which is below the panel. The rest of the book is very much what I expect to see in many series like this, so I really don’t have any complaints or concerns about the art. It simply is what it is, and that is good enough for this book.
BOTTOM LINE: WHO IS THE TARGET AUDIENCE?
While I don’t have a problem reading right to left, the front to back, right to left method seems awkward at best in this issue. Combined with the fact this is a direct adaptation of a television show that debuted six years ago with an audience of 8 million in the UK alone, I think a lot of potential readers already know the ending. So, this leaves a small sliver of potential readers who are A) into manga, B) not into manga enough to have read the original version, C) have not seen Sherlock and don’t know the solution to the mystery, and D) want to work their way through the layout of this book. Sherlock: The Blind Banker #1 isn’t a horrible book, in fact, it’s an enjoyable story. It just has so much working against it as a casual read in your comic book stack.