The fourth volume in manga creator Jay's adaptation of the BBC television series Sherlock, A Scandal in Belgravia is also the first case to span multiple books. As Sherlockians will have noticed (or remembered from the show), the title of this case is a play on Conan Doyle's third story about Holmes, the 1891 A Scandal in Bohemia. The original story marks Irene Adler's sole physical appearance in the original Holmes canon, and while elements of that story remain intact here, Adler herself is the subject of some serious reimagining.
Part of that is relatively legitimate based on the interpretation of one of the original words used to describe Adler: “adventuress.” In 1891, the word denoted a woman who was unscrupulous in how she achieved her goals, which were usually wealth or social advancement. Some have posited that it also had a connotation of a woman who might sell her favors in order to get these things, more a courtesan than a lower-class sex worker. It is this potential meaning that Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss seem to have seized upon in editing Adler for modern consumption; Holmes' wily rival no longer works as an actress or opera singer (which, okay, didn't have great connotations for a woman's purity in the strictly Victorian sense), but as a dominatrix.
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this as a profession, in the case of A Scandal in Belgravia it does have the unfortunate effect of making Adler's power largely, if not completely, reliant upon her perceived degree of sexiness, suggesting that her sexuality is her chief claim to fame. This is at play when Holmes finds out that she has the compromising pictures, but it's even more evident in the fact that she spends most of her scenes in the volume naked. It's less a sign of her comfort level with her own body and sexuality and more an attempt on her part to throw Holmes and Watson off-balance, to use her sexiness as a weapon against them. She knows that Holmes won't be easy to beat, and her goal appears to be to distract him with the promise or idea of sex so that he falls into her trap, either by not paying close enough attention to what she's doing and saying or by making it relatively easy for him to guess the code to her safe, which, when opened, holds a deadly surprise.
This is almost in direct opposition to the original Adler, whose claim to literary fame is that she outsmarted Holmes and had a quick and intelligent mind. (In fact, this is what he admires about her, as Watson notes in the original 1891 story.) The original Holmes respects Adler, which we don't necessarily see here; there's almost too much of an effort expended to make her attempt to appeal to Holmes sexually, and Holmes' reaction to her reads less like respect and more like contempt for her blatant efforts. Perhaps the closest we really come to seeing any admiration for her mind is when he attempts to unlock her cellphone; beyond that, his facial expressions and words appear to sneer in her general direction. That feels very much like short-changing Adler as a character. Her enjoyment of her profession does not appear to stem from the idea that she's helping others, but rather from the power it gives her over them. It is this power that she is attempting to exert over Holmes and Watson, and it is also this that makes her seem somehow “lesser” than Holmes. Simply put, it feels like an attempt to frame her as someone who only thinks she's powerful, and while, as previously mentioned, this is the first multi-volume adaptation in the series and it may change with book two, as of this volume it doesn't seem to do Adler justice.
Beyond that, as with previous entries into the series, this volume does a very good job of adapting the TV show. Jay's art makes all of the actors very recognizable (although a bit of Basil Rathbone does sometimes creep into his Holmes; that may be on purpose given the use of the deerstalker hat) and the dry wit is also retained nicely. Noses, specifically Watson's, can get out of control in profile as Jay draws them overlong or bigger than they ought to be, and Holmes' can look a little piggish if we're looking up at him rather than seeing him head-on or in profile, but those are the only major artistic issues. Some of the darker backgrounds can make it a little difficult to see characters clearly, but that's mainly an issue in the Baker Street apartment, which isn't the main setting for the story.
Fans of the original Sherlock TV series should continue to be satisfied (or dissatisfied, depending) with this manga version of the story. It keeps the feel of the show intact and is very readable in terms of page and panel flow. Irene Adler fans who had an issue with this episode when it aired (as I did) won't be won over, because it's basically got the same issues as the show, but if that's not your particular problem, this is a solid volume that continues the good adaptation work done in the previous three.