Moriarty the Patriot
Story: (based on the works by) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Storyboard: Ryosuke Takeuchi
Art: Hikaru Miyoshi
Translation: Guillaume Hennequin
Touch-Up Art & Lettering: Annaliese “Ace” Christman
Design: Joy Zhang
Editor: Marlene First
We live in a time of remakes, and perhaps no intellectual property has been reimagined, reinvented, and parodied quite as much as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s consulting detective, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Some of these new tellings are straightforward adaptations, perhaps with a modern twist. But VIZ’s newest offering in this vein, Moriarty the Patriot, does something a little different than its peers; it takes the sinister Professor Moriarty and casts him as the hero of the story.
Fans of mysteries will likely be familiar with at least the most famous of Doyle’s Holmes stories, perhaps through Hollywood or BBC interpretations, if not through the stories themselves. Though originally a rather minor character, Professor Moriarty has come to serve as Holmes’s archnemesis in modern tellings. He is a cold, brilliant, and calculating villain, the “Napoleon of crime” who keeps the hero on his toes at all times. Because Moriarty’s background is inconsistent in the Doyle stories, it is easy to reinvent him, as Ryosuke Takeuchi and Hikaru Miyoshi do in Moriarty the Patriot. In the manga, the boy who would become Professor Moriarty and his younger brother, Louis, are poor orphans who have been adopted into the Moriarty family as a show of noblesse oblige. Our protagonist jaunts around town under the guise of William James Moriarty, the Moriarty family’s younger son who has no interest in the people of their town. Together with the eldest son Albert, the future Professor and Louis conspire to kill the cruel Moriarty family in an “accidental” fire, leaving the three boys to rectify the wrongs of the English noble classes as nobles themselves.
And there we have our twist: The Professor Moriarty who is so evil in most Sherlock Holmes adaptations is, in this manga, attempting to equalize society. He is a class traitor in both senses; growing up poor, he has risen to the nobility, but as a noble he consults on the behalf of the working classes, holding his wealthy peers accountable for their exploitation of, and distaste for, anyone they deem below them. But he is not completely sanitized as a misunderstood villain. No, Professor Moriarty is still as calculating as ever, his meticulous methods still relying heavily on manipulation, coercion, and threats. His motives might be pure, but his means still leave the ordinary person shuddering at their cruelty.
Miyoshi’s artwork gives Moriarty a bishonen air, making his complexity all the more alluring to the manga fan who is accustomed to the dramatically layered characters of the medium. Indeed, the cast is made up of several handsome men working with Moriarty to realize his utopian dream. The Victorian setting is well established, both visually and as part of the plot, depicting an England on the verge of change and progress. As of the first volume, the world’s most famous consulting detective has not made his appearance. His introduction is inevitable, however, for at the very beginning, in a panel that looks to be set at the notorious Reichenbach Falls, Moriarty screams, “The Devil here is you! Sherlock!!” before it shifts to the story’s true start.
Moriarty the Patriot is a must-read for manga-loving Holmes fans who are eager to see how the Holmes story fares as an indictment of the aristocracy that, for the most part, Sherlock himself either upholds or completely ignores. Volume one of this intriguing new series is available from VIZ Media starting October 6, 2020. An anime adaptation is set to begin on October 11, 2020, and will be available to stream through Funimation. So don your deerstalker, for the game is afoot!