The Sign of the Four (Sherlock Holmes Graphic Novels) Paperback – 25 Oct 2010
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You are a wronged woman and shall have justice. Do not bring police. If you do, all will be in vain. Your unknown friend'. When a beautiful young woman is sent a letter inviting her to a sinister assignation, she immediately seeks the advice of the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes. For this is not the first mysterious item Mary Marston has received in the post. Every year for the last six years an anonymous benefactor has sent her a large lustrous pearl. Now it appears the sender of the pearls would like to meet her to right a wrong. But when Sherlock Holmes and his faithful sidekick Watson, aiding Miss Marston, attend the assignation, they embark on a dark and mysterious adventure involving a one-legged ruffian, some hidden treasure, deadly poison darts and a thrilling race along the River Thames.
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The art is often crazily superb, the adaptation faithful and, where it slims the original, it slims with a subtle dramatic eye. I enjoy these almost as much as I enjoy Conan Doyle's prose, and - the true sign of a terrific adaptation - have found that it sends me back to the original with renewed relish and heightened appreciation.
I found myself reflecting on imperial morality - someone with brown skin is robbed and murdered - people serve time for it but are not hanged. And when the treasure seems likely to be found, it is seen as making a sweet white woman rich - rather than as stolen property that should be returned to the rightful owner. All these things are a simple backdrop - unquestioned.
On the way, we have the character of Major Sholto, possibly based on Oscar Wilde - whom Conan Doyle had just met over dinner. And we have the ending that for Holmes there is always 'the seven per cent solution' - cocaine is not seen as affecting his cold reason, even if Watson's intention of getting married is seen as detrimental to Watson's judgement, and cue for retirement.
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As the story opens, a bored Holmes' desire for a good case is gratified by the arrival at Baker Street of Miss Mary Morstan. Miss Morstan has been the recipient, without explanation, of a valuable set of pearls, and just recently,of a mysterious summons to a meeting with an unknown benefactor. Holme is interested in the case, Watson in the attractive Miss Morstan; they agree to accompany her to her meeting. There are to be two meetings. The first is with the eccentric Thaddeus Sholto, who has a strange story to tell. The second is with his brother Bartholomew, found dead under mysterious circumstances. Holmes and Watson must decipher the clues if they are to pick up the trail of a missing box of treasure.
The extended opening sequence of the story allows the reader to get acquainted, or reacquainted, with Holmes and Watson, and their unique partnership, before getting into the mystery at hand. It's fun to watch Watson falling in love, and almost as much fun to note Holmes' alarmed reaction. "The Sign of Four" is very highly recommended as an entertaining graphic novel and as an introduction into fiction's most famous private detective.
This is the second long story about Sherlock Holmes, and second in popularity to “The Hound of the Baskervilles”. The ‘Foreword’ said Thaddeus Sholto was modeled on Oscar Wilde. This 2010 book has 129 numbered pages. I. N. J. Culbard is an artist and writer, an acclaimed animation director with experience in directing commercials for television. Ian Edginton is one of England’s best known writers and has worked for movie companies. Story boards are used in making movies.
It begins with Sherlock’s self-medication. Dr. Watson warns him of its bad effects. Sherlock is the only unofficial consulting detective (or private investigator). He tells of the articles he has written. Sherlock deduces what Watson did earlier. Then he read the facts in the watch of Watson’s older brother! Miss Mary Morstan arrives to seek help about a problem. Her father returned to England ten years ago then disappeared. Six years ago she advertised her address in ‘The Times’ and then received a large pearl in the mail every year thereafter. Today she received a letter asking to meet her. Holmes and Watson will go along.
Holmes tells what he discovered about Major Sholto. Miss Morstan has an old letter from her father. They meet a man and enter a carriage for a ride to Thaddeus Sholto’s home. Major Sholto had spoken before his death on how he gained a considerable treasure from India. Captain Morstan had visited and died from a weak heart; the body was disposed of. [Is there more here?] Major Sholto saw a man at the window and then expired. Lately the hidden treasure was discovered so Thaddeus will take Miss Morstan to visit his brother Bartholomew. But they find him dead! That treasure chest is missing! Holmes names and describes the two men who were there! Watson fetches Toby, a dog. Toby will track the barefoot man by the smell of creosote.
Sherlock tells what that map means as they trail the scent. But the search ends without a result! But they learn about Smith’s steam launch. Holmes uses his Irregulars to search for the Aurora. Inspector Jones arrives, then too Holmes (who located the launch). They follow Smith’s steam launch. Tonga uses his blow gun to shoot darts at them, Holmes and Jones fire their revolvers to end this threat. Small jumps overboard to escape, but his wooden leg stops him. Watson takes the metal treasure box to Miss Morstan. It is empty! Watson is happy, so too Mary!
Jonathan Small tells what he did with the contents. Small joined the Army to get away from home. A crocodile bit off his leg. The Great Mutiny broke out. Small joined three others in stealing a treasure. But they were caught and convicted, sent to the Andaman Islands. Small offered a deal to Sholto and Morstan. But Sholto betrayed them. He nursed Tonga back to life and saved his life, who then helped Small to escape. They found where Sholto lived and entered the house to take the treasure box. Small is taken away. Jones got the credit for solving the case, Watson won a wife, and Holmes exercised his skills again.
These drawings are simple like newspaper comic strips. The irony of striving for stolen goods that disappear was used in other stories. The military was used to effect Imperialism, some took advantage of their position. Was this meant as a criticism of imperialism? Later Doyle would support the Boer War, unlike other writers. The Sepoy Mutiny is an example of customer resistance to a new product. Read the original for the complete story.