Saturday, April 14, 2012

Review: MORIARTY VOLUME 2: The Lazarus Tree


WRITER: Daniel Corey
ARTISTS: Anthony Diecidue (pp. 5-55, 76-126), Mike Vosburg (pp. 56-75)
LAYOUTS: Mike Vosburg (pp. 31-52)
COLORS: Anthony Diecidue (pp. 55-76, 103-126), Perry Freeze (pp. 5-52, 79-100)
LETTERS: Dave Lanphear
COVER: Anthony Diecidue
ISBN: 978-1-60706-490-9; paperback
140pp, Color, $14.99 U.S.

I occasionally read articles in which the writers describe Professor James Moriarty as the first super-villain. Moriarty is Sherlock Holmes’ archenemy, although he only appeared in one story written by Holmes’ creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He was a background player in another.

Published by Image Comics, Moriarty is a comic book series that stars Professor Moriarty as its central character. This alternate take on Moriarty is brought to readers by writer Daniel Corey and artist Anthony Diecidue.

The trade paperback, Moriarty Volume 2: The Lazarus Tree, collects Moriarty #5-9. The story picks up in the wake of The Dark Chamber (Moriarty #1-4) and finds Professor Moriarty trying to decipher the unsettling dreams that plague his sleep. Holmes and Watson are the featured players in these dreams, but other figures include a faceless man and a young boy being birthed from a stranger flower of the banyan tree.

Moriarty adopts the guise of Latimore of East India Company and sets sail for Burma in search of Eustis Morley, a missing friend and employee (or sorts). Arriving in the city of Kyauktada, Moriarty lands in the middle of unrest that varied interests are trying to turn into a full-fledged revolution. With Blair, a troublesome Imperial Policeman, as an ally, Moriarty searches for Morley, an investigation that takes Moriarty back to the beginning of his career and the early days in which he built a secret business empire. Waiting for him is a tree hidden deep in the Burmese jungles – a legendary tree that offers resurrection and the secret of Moriarty’s destiny.

When I received a copy of Moriarty Volume 1: The Dark Chamber for review last year, I admitted that I was not happy. I simply was not interested in another Holmes pastiche, but feeling obligated to review the damn thing, I eventually started reading and then, couldn’t stop. I also wrote that I found The Dark Chamber to be every bit as fun as the first Guy Ritche/Robert Downey, Jr. Sherlock Holmes film, with a Moriarty that was every bit as interesting and as fun to follow as Downey’s Holmes.

I enjoyed reading The Lazarus Tree, but not as much as I did The Dark Chamber. The reason is simple. In The Dark Chamber, Moriarty is a brilliant man, but he is destitute and desperate. The entire graphic novel has the sense that Moriarty might not survive. He has a lot to lose; he has everything to lose, and there is conflict and dilemmas galore.

In The Lazarus Tree, Moriarty is a man in full. There is conflict and cliffhangers, but writer Daniel Corey plays Moriarty as something like a superman who is simply rebuilding his empire. The Lazarus Tree has some interesting philosophical and scientific ideas, and it does show an interesting side of Moriarty (friendships). However, the threats that Moriarty faces in The Lazarus Tree don’t come across as having a sense of impending doom.

The art by Anthony Diecidue retains its woodblock sensibilities and expressionistic inking. Not only is Diecidue a good storyteller, but he is also good at giving this story grit and darkness so that it doesn’t come across as some kind of over-dressed Victorian fantasia. Mike Vosburg does a good job drawing the flashback story.


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