Moriarty, Vol. 1: The Dark Chamber
written by Daniel Corey
illustrated by Anthony Diecidue
Twenty years after the death of Sherlock Holmes, the world stands on the brink of World War I. Archduke Ferdinand has been assassinated by a secret society known as the Black Hand. Sherlock's brother, Mycroft, and a physics professor have both disappeared. Framed by British Intelligence, Professor James Moriarty is lured into the investigation of the missing men, only to discover a deeper web of intrigue surrounding a psychic device and a cult hellbent on world domination.
From the opening pages, it is quite apparent that writer Daniel Corey is a solid fan of the Sherlock Holmes mythos as penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He pens a tale of intrigue filled with small hints and clues, as well as requisite attention to the details and attitudes of London culture at the turn of the 20th century, which lead to brilliant, natural deductions that showcase why Prof. Moriarty was such an excellent foil for Doyle’s hero. Although the character of Moriarty has become a part of the Holmes zeitgeist, more through pop culture than by any effort of Doyle's, Corey presents a fresh examination of the man and his motivations.
While Moriarty is popularly known as the archvillain to Holmes, Corey shows their relationship to be akin to yin and yang. Although Moriarty bested his enemy at Reichenbach Falls and left him for dead, the years that followed proved it to be a hollow victory at best. Moriarty is a lost soul; the challenges of his adversarial relationship with Holmes had been the key driving force in his life and gave him purpose. Now, he is bored and discontent. In some ways, he is his own worst enemy and he has grown lazy without the constant struggles against Holmes, which, despite his best intentions, causes him to fall prey to the whims of other, more diabolical, forces.
Corey successfully recasts his title character as an erstwhile antihero worth rooting for. Much of that success, of course, lies in creating a villain that challenges the readers as much as the book's cast of characters. Tartarus, the book's central antagonist, possess a keen criminal intellect that outweighs even Moriarty’s, once the penultimate criminal mastermind. The psychic box and an impending war provide a brilliant spark to motivate these opposing forces.
While the story has plenty of action pieces, the cerebral elements are really where a lot of the book's enjoyment comes from, and the story is presented in fun, puzzle-like fashion. Watching Moriarty think his way through the traps and perils, oftentimes finding himself caught between multiple and opposing factions, and figuring out disparate clues connect is where the real treats lie.
Like the best Holmes adventures, The Dark Chamber is filled with numerous twists and turns, intuitive deductions and leaps of logic. Layered with multiple levels of duplicity, double- and triple-crosses, and familiar faces from Doyle's literary works, it proves to be an engrossing read. More important, it feels like a legitimate addition to Doyle's legacy and the canon of Sherlock Holmes.