The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
Adapted by David and Scott Tiption from Nicholas Meyer
Art by Ron Josheph
When Alan gave me this week’s assignment, I will admit to giggling. I had never heard of the particular Sherlock Holmes story adapted here, but the cover promised “the astounding joint adventure of Sherlock Holmes and Sigmund Freud.” In my day job, I am a psychiatrist practicing psychodynamic psychotherapy, and I have a fondness for the Holmes stories, especially the classic Young Sherlock Holmes. This seemed perfect for me.
The book surprised me. In the framing sequence, Watson says that decades after publishing the stories recounting the death of Holmes’s nemesis, Professor Moriarty, and the three-year disappearance of the legendary detective, he needs to come clean about some lies in the text. This confessional tale spends the opening issue establishing Holmes as a man gone paranoid from excessive injections of cocaine (in the titular 7% solution). As he is lost further down the drain of his addiction, Holmes spouts frightening delusional stories about Professor Moriarty as a sinister genius crimelord, and Watson decides to take him to see Sigmund Freud to work on rehabilitation.
The story is setting up a significant tone and environment, so it’s light on plot. But the tone is top-notch. The refined dialogue reads like something out of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original tales, but the subject matter is incongruously dark. As a man who works with a number of people in addictions, I recognized the fears Watson and his wife have for their friend, the shock that a man they used to respect is now sending threatening letters to an apparently innocent math teacher and refusing to speak to his assistant without asking three security questions to verify his identity. Watson is shaken by Holmes’s skin infections from using dirty needles, by the weight he has lost and the change in his eyes.
Fans of Sherlock Holmes will probably feel a little cheated that he doesn’t pull any dramatic deductive reasoning tricks out in this first issue. But those fans will also feel grateful that this book doesn’t gloss over the cocaine like Doyle did originally, and anyone who has ever cared for a person with addictive issues will wait breathlessly for the next issue, hoping this story has a happy ending. I hope this book empowers family members to talk openly about substance abuse. Picking this issue up at one of your Ultimate Comics locations can start this conversation for you.
If you are a friend or family member of someone with substance abuse, there is help. Look into www.al-anon.org to learn more. If you yourself struggle with the use of drugs or alcohol, talk to your doctor or look into www.addiction.com or www.aa.org to begin getting help.
-Matt Conner for Ultimate Comics & NCComicon