Moriarty Vol. 2: The Lazarus Tree (Image)

Holmes’ greatest foe heads on a mission to Burma to track down the secret to immortality in this second story arc.



24 pgs., color; $2.99 (issues #5-9)
136 pgs., color; $14.99 (collected)
(W: Daniel Corey; A: Anthony Diecidue, Mike Vosburg)
Note: this review is based on the individual issues, not the collected edition.
I found the clue to enjoying the Moriarty series in the author’s notes to issue #7. Daniel Corey begins by talking about artist Mike Vosburg, ends by talking about the engagement of two friends, and in between manages to touch on Spawn, Dr. No, the two Ian Flemings (one the author who created James Bond, the other an actor who played Dr. Watson in a 1935 Sherlock Holmes film), and a few other things as well. That’s what reading the series is like—it pops from one idea, location, or character to another, and you really have to be willing to go where Corey wants to take you at the moment, while trusting that it will all make sense in the end. This is the second of two story arcs involving Moriarty, and I’m still reading, so you can take that as my testimony that it’s worth following these characters on their adventures—the trip is a lot of fun by itself, and if you’re familiar with the Sherlock Holmes universe, it’s just that much better.
This new series, which will be released in a single volume on March 14, begins at 221B Baker Street, where, guess what, Sherlock is still alive and kicking. That’s totally canonical (unless you stopped reading Conan Doyle’s stories in 1894), although it is disconcerting to see Holmes, Watson, and Mrs. Hudson drawn in the same grim style as the evil Moriarty. Hmm, could the artist be trying to tell us something? Meanwhile, Professor Moriarty is having a dream in which he envisions his own death, and he heads off to Burma to try to unravel this mystery (a strange small child also figures in the dream), in the guise of a manager for the East India Company named Latimore. In Burma, Moriarty encounters a British colonial policeman named Blair, and if that name doesn’t ring a bell you need to study up on the life of George Orwell.
References to the Sherlockian canon are salted throughout this adventure, from a character named Colonel Moran to an aside about "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League," along with a pretty good understanding of the British colonial empire of the time (a key flashback is set in Jamaica). We learn more about how Moriarty got to be the way he is, and Corey salts in some contemporary physics along the way (this Moriarty is a physicist, not a mathematician). For a man of science, however, Moriarty somewhat surprisingly also believes in magic, specifically a "tree of life" that can prevent his death, and that’s the ultimate goal of his quest to Burma.
Anthony Diecidue drew most of the art for these issues, and his style is fine for the story, although it’s not my favorite approach to comics—for my taste, he dwells a little too much on the ugly aspects of its characters, and is a little heavy with the stylization. Still, that’s the artist’s choice, and it works well enough for a story centering around a criminal mastermind. However, most of issue #7 was drawn by Mike Vosburg, whose more realistic approach I much prefer, so I hope he draws more issues in the future. It’s not a problem switching artists in mid-story because most of issue #7 presents back-story for Moriarty, and thus it seems perfectly natural to have those frames drawn in a different style. You can see the differences in these previews of issue #5 and issue #7
Here’s a bit of news for Moriarty fans: the first story arc is set to be adapted as a musical by author Daniel Corey and composer Raymond Schnurr, with a hard rock score and a dark staging style similar to Les Miserables, Sweeney Todd, and The Phantom of the Opera. It sounds intriguing to me, and you can read more about the project here | Sarah Boslaugh


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