Pirate Stew (2020) – 2 stars
Meet Long John McRon, Ship’s Cook the most unusual babysitter you’ve ever seen. Long John has a whole crew of wild pirates in tow, and—for one boy and his sister—he’s about to transform a perfectly ordinary evening into a riotous adventure beneath a pirate moon. It’s time to make some Pirate Stew.
This should be a fun little tale of pirates, flying ships, doughnut feasts and magical stew but it falls flat. For me, the real problem of this book was Neil Gaiman’s rhyming text. It did nothing to hold my intention, and worst sin of all had me thinking of other options for the couplets. It lacked patterns and had a strange rhythm. I think I know what Gaiman was after (pirates are an unruly bunch after all) but it had me itching to skim. The good news? The illustrations by Chris Riddell are very engaging.
A Study in Emerald (2018) = 3 stars
Drawing from both the Sherlock Holmes canon and the Old Ones of the Cthulhu Mythos, this Hugo Award-winning supernatural mystery set features a detective and his partner as they try to solve a horrific murder. A Study in Emerald draws readers through the complex investigation of the Baker Street investigators from the slums of Whitechapel all the way to the Queen’s Palace as they attempt to find the answers to this bizarre murder of cosmic horror. There are carefully revealed details as the consulting detective and his (unnamed) narrator friend solve the mystery of a murdered German noble.
This graphic novel is aimed to fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and H. P. Lovecraft as they are the creators of the source material. This work takes the two worlds and smashes them together, to accomplished but bland effect. Not the fault of the illustrators, who are able to capture the atmosphere of the story in artwork I quite enjoyed, and in the theme of my review of these two Gaiman penned works, the art outpaced the story.
Gaiman does a great job of imitating Doyle’s style, but basically reuses the plot points and details as A Study in Scarlet without much original work. The unnamed narrator’s back story is exactly like Watson’s and is introduced in the same way, some of the major plot points are the same. It falls short on the retelling metric: what’s the point of doing a re-telling if you’re telling the exact same story in very similar words with minor additions from a second body of works. Until the ending, then there’s a switcheroo against expectations and in retrospect you get the retelling component. It has merit, but it did not work for me.