Review by Karl Verhoven
By this second outing for the 21st century Sherlock time has moved on a little. Consulting Detective Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are settled in their shared flat, and Watson is becoming used to Holmes’ eccentric genius. Domestic harmony, however, is not on the agenda.
Adapting artist Jay has enough space to tackle the entire TV episode with few contractions, so that’s satisfying, but Mark Gatiss’ plot for The Blind Banker doesn’t work as quite well as A Study in Pink. It’s too keen to display as clever rather than rolling out relatively naturally. A number of deaths and disappearances are linked by the presence of strange symbols and it eventually becomes a matter of life or death if Sherlock can’t solve the puzzle. Also, considerably more so than the previous adaptation, this suffers from the shorthand manga art using little more than figures to tell the story. The TV episode was rich in cultural detail and locations, having a visual depth, so only supplying rudimentary backgrounds diminishes the story. As previously, and indeed in The Great Game, which follows, Jay’s likeness of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock is far stronger than his more impressionistic version of Martin Freeman’s Watson.
More positively, Jay has a wonderful way of illustrating Sherlock as a whirlwind of motion when he’s putting things together, and is strong on visual emotion. While not providing an exact likeness of Freeman, the stand in he supplies conveys the inner melancholy afflicting Watson’s character very well. Furthermore the plot might not match the first outing, but it’s by no means poor, and some great lines underline how insufferable Sherlock can be. “Wrong. It’s one possible explanation of some of the facts”, he informs a police detective. “You’ve got a solution that you like but you’re choosing to ignore anything that doesn’t comply with it”, he continues, before a step by step outline of why he’s right.
It’s not the intricacy of the plots that sold Sherlock to massive TV audiences around the world, but the convincing relationship between two fractured characters played so well by the actors. Jay nails their connection superbly and that strength counts for a lot. The Blind Banker is also available with adaptations of the two other first season Sherlock episodes as a slipcased box set.