Offred is a Handmaid living in the service of the Commander and his wife in the Republic of Gilead. She is not allowed to read, write, hold a job or make money, nor even have any friends. Her sole duty is to bear the Commander’s children. Offred remembers a time before, when she was a free woman. The mere thought is treasonous, but she holds onto the memories like her own precious secret. When the Commander decides to indulge Offred in activities that are forbidden – playing board games, looking at magazines – she realizes that if she plays her cards right, she could be playing for her freedom.
I’ve never read Margaret Atwood’s novel, nor watched the popular TV adaptation. But I was blown away by this graphic novel adaptation by Renée Nault. I was sucked in, compelled morbidly and revoltingly to keep going, and could not put it down until the very last page. Even then I had to set it aside, savor it some more, and most importantly, think, and we all know how I love books that make me think ;D
Having not read the original novel, I’m not sure how much was omitted to pare it down to graphic novel form. I was able to figure most things out on my own, but it could have done with another few pages of exposition when it came to the nuclear fallout and the forming of the Republic of Gilead. There was mention of countries outside North America at one point, and expansion on that would have been welcome too. If these existed in the first place, they must have been edited out. I’m sure it did Atwood’s novel justice.
Nault’s artwork was incredible. It appears to have been done in ink and watercolor, in thin washes and with thin, slightly wobbly lines, echoing the uncertain and tumultuous nature of the story. Even the font was wiggly! There is an airy and yet foreboding quality in the art, as if you’re in a dream that could very quickly and easily turn into a nightmare. I was stunned by the skill and quality of Nault’s work, and will be seeking out more from her!
This graphic novel by turns repulsed and fascinated me, as I’m sure the print book will. The production of this adaptation was magnificent, and I look forward to comparing it to the original novel.
Atwood, Margaret. Adapted by Renée Nault. The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel. 2019.
Three goddesses once approached Paris, Prince of Troy, to determine which of them was the most beautiful. Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, was chosen to be the most fair above Hera and Athena. In exchange, she helped Paris obtain Helen of Sparta, the most beautiful woman in the world. Her kidnapping launched the ten-year-long Trojan war, in which the Spartans, along with an army assorted of many Greek city-states, mount a siege against the Trojans. Rendered here is the later part of the epic, in which the Greek army is splintered when Agamemnon offends Achilles, and the events that take place thereafter.
Gareth Hinds’ newest adaptation, this one of part of Homer’s epic, is well-researched and rendered beautifully. Even in graphic novel form, it is not light reading, so plan ahead accordingly! There is appropriate white space between panels and it’s broken into “books”, or chapters, to keep things simpler. The character guide at the very beginning was extremely helpful in keeping everyone straight. I kept it bookmarked while reading so I could refer back to it easily when I inevitably got confused. Throughout the story, there are footnotes with more context where appropriate. At the back of the book, there are expanded notes, maps, a bibliography, and more.
Once again, the art is excellent. It appears to be rendered in watercolor, but the softness of the medium does not take away from the brutality of the war or emotional turmoil of the characters in any way. Hinds doesn’t hold back on the blood and gore, nor shy away from showing appropriate intense emotions in the characters. Having read the epic before, I found it very helpful to see the characters’ expressions, and made it easier to understand what they were going through than reading the text alone did.
I have not yet been disappointed with a Hinds adaptation, but this one exceeded even my high expectations! I have a deeper understanding of the famous epic having read it in graphic novel form. It would serve well as a companion while reading the original text. Looking forward to more from this creator, though I am hoping his next adaptation has a lighter source material =P
Sibylla is not your usual little girl. She craves adventure, not a husband. When she goes to see a witch with two of her peers to get her fortune told, she asks, “Will I ever get to sail a ship?” The amused witch tells her instead that she will marry – the Black Bull of Norroway. He is supposed to be a terrifying legend. Sibylla, however, isn’t fazed. When the Black Bull does indeed show up at her doorstep when she’s older, she readily packs her bags and goes with him. He is on a quest to break the curse that was put on him, and do to that, he needs a bride, a sword, and a shield. Sibylla is the required bride, but she’s ready to prove that she’s so much more than that. She puts her foot down and travels with him across Norroway, searching for the last elements and trials he must endure to break his curse.
I absolutely adored this graphic novel, adapted from a Scottish fairy tale, written and illustrated by two sisters named Kit and Cat Seaton. I’d say it’s middle grade to young adult, but I found it entertaining as an adult. Sibylla’s no-nonsense and tenacious personality was a big draw for me. She and Bull are a lot alike, but they also learn a lot from each other throughout this story. This is only the first volume, with (hopefully!) many more promising adventures ahead.
As such, the full backstory of Bull’s curse is only hinted at, and the repercussions of the curse on those close to him aren’t yet fully unfolded. Many times in fantasy, when there is a curse involved, it only involves and affects the one person on whom the curse was placed. Here, the curse affects multiple people, adding an extra layer of intrigue. By doing this also, it emphasizes the fact that the actions of one person have consequences for many. Very rarely do our choices impact only ourselves. I appreciated this aspect of the story most, and would be looking forward to more for that alone…
… If it weren’t for the art, too. It’s delightful! I don’t think it is watercolor, though there is an airy quality about it all the same, like you would get with watercolors. Both human and bull characters are adorably animated and expressive, bringing the story to life. The backgrounds and landscapes remind me almost of ancient Asian paintings. There is a soft and calming quality about them, much like those old works, that I enjoy.
This is the first installment in what promises to be a delightful series, filled with intrigue, adventure, and two stubborn heroes learning to live with and like each other. I am highly anticipating the second volume.
Seaton, Kit & Cat. Norroway (Book 1): The Black Bull of Norroway. 2018.
Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit content passing his days sitting on his front porch, blowing smoke rings, and drinking tea. All that changes when the wizard Gandalf appears on his doorstep, asking if Bilbo would like to participate in an adventure. Well, hobbits simply do not have adventures! But despite Bilbo’s protests, Gandalf along with a large group of dwarves show up at his door for tea the next day. They are on a quest to take back the stolen treasure that is their leader Thorin Oakenshield’s birthright. One problem… the treasure was stolen by a dragon named Smaug. Bilbo, of course, is horrified… and intrigued. Despite himself, he finds himself travelling with the band of dwarves and wizard. Together, they meet elves, almost get eaten by trolls, get kidnapped by goblins, and confront the most feared dragon in Middle-Earth.
The subtitle stresses that it’s an illustrated edition, which I think in a few respects is true. While it is laid out like a graphic novel, and reads like one, this one is significantly more text-heavy than previous graphic novel adaptations I’ve read. It takes dialogue and expository passages straight from the book. As a result, there are many more text boxes into which the text was all squished. This made the text very small and hard to read at times. The book could have greatly benefited from a larger format (it was a little smaller than your usual trade paperback), or further editing to cut out some of the more unnecessary text.
The illustrations were lovely. They were whimsical and colorful and perfectly suited the lighter tone of The Hobbit. Even the darker places and passages were filled with a light and airy quality. I enjoyed them very much, and I could easily see the appeal for both older and younger readers. Like with the Harry Potter Illustrated Editions, I could see this edition being used by parents to introduce Tolkien to young children. It was in the teen graphic novel section at the public library I work at, but I’d say middle school children would be able to read it on their own.
While a bit too text-heavy for my taste, this was a wonderful adaptation of The Hobbit in graphic novel form. The illustrations will be the big appeal here, as they draw you into a whimsical and colorful Middle Earth.
Tolkien, J.R.R. Adapted by Charles Dixon with Sean Deming. Illustrated by David Wenzel. The Hobbit: An Illustrated Edition of the Fantasy Classic. 2001.
Edgar Allan Poe has always fascinated me. I love his work, as his poems and short stories have always struck me as the perfect level of macabre and creepy. I wrote a discussion post a few months back about if novels should be adapted into graphic novels once the author can no longer give their go ahead. But Poe’s works are now in the public domain so many feel his work is fair game, with some adaptations having greater success than others.
I have been looking forward to this adaptation by Gareth Hinds that recently came out, for his previous adaptions of classics such as Beowolf, Macbeth and The Odyssey have received rave reviews. I was not disappointed!
The Masque of the Red Death– Using vivid imagery, this story incorporates the theme of “death comes for us all” quite effectively.
The Cask of Amontillado– Revenge most sweet. Fortunato insulted Montresor one too many times, and his own vanity led to his demise with no guilt from Montresor. I have to admit this story appealed to me, for don’t we all at times wish revenge on those that have wronged us?
Annabel Lee– My favorite of Poe’s works, hands down. The poem of lost love and eternal devotion has always appealed to me. I didn’t care for the illustrations for this poem initially, but his interpretation of sacrifice and years going by grew on me.
The Pit and the Pendulum– Hind’s illustrations were evocative of the fear of the unknown as the prisoner awakes in a jail cell, in which he is tortured by unseen guards and has to use cunning to escape.
The Tell-Tale Heart– An interesting retelling of the tale of a guilty conscience, Hines frames the confession coming from an inmate in an insane asylum.
The Bells– I was not familiar with this poem, but the imagery Hines paired with the stanzas helped build the rhythm, and truly made the bell chimes seem real in your ears.
The Raven– Another of Poe’s stories that lament lost love, Hinds makes the choice to make the narrator look like Poe to great effect. This story’s illustrations were my favorite, and he incorporated little visuals from the other stories into this tale. The classical motifs were represented and the raven aptly symbolized the narrator’s grief and his descent into madness.
The illustration style skews young, where I almost felt I should place it in the Juvenile collection at my library, did it not have such dark themes of murder and violence. I feel that this is a strong adaptation, and with the author’s notes about Poe and his stories, it is an excellent introduction for younger readers to then make the choice to study Poe’s additional works.
I am typically not a fan of Manga books, but I was intrigued to read it in comparison to Hinds’s adaptation of Poe’s work, with both works coming out within months of each other.
The Tell-Tale Heart (art by Virginia Nitouhei)- The first story was challenging for me, as I felt the unnamed narrator was too perfect looking (aka Manga-like). But once I got past that, the illustrations told the story very effectively.
The Cask of Amontillado (art by Chagen)- The background of the festival where they two men meet and later the catacombs they enter were well drawn and really gave it a sense of atmosphere. The last page was chilling.
The Raven (art by Pikomaro)- The art work in this story is gorgeous. The visions that the narrator has of his lost Lenore were heartbreaking and the last page of the raven with the grieving man was perfect.
The Masque of the Red Death (art by Uka Nagao)- This ended up being my least favorite, for the story’s very essence centers around the colors of the rooms and what they represent. The lack of color affected the interpretation and it fell flat.
The Fall of the House of Usher (art by Linus Liu & Man Yiu)- I have never been a fan of this story, but the illustrated version of the story elevated it to me. The crumbling estate is aptly drawn and the madness of twins Roderick and Madeline is evident. The sense of impending doom and Gothic despair shine through.
This adaptation is the latest in a series of Manga classics, and I would recommend it if you enjoy Manga and already own previous classics from this collection. I would hope that readers would look at Poe’s additional works, if they enjoyed this strong version of five of his short-stories. I received the online book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, and the timing worked out well for me to compare both excellent adaptations of the premier horror writer’s work.
And finally, just for fun, look at this video of Poe and Stephen King having a rap battle of who is the best writer. Poe for the win!
Picture of Poe is from artist Cris Vector on Deviant Art.
Welcome to my first discussion post, in which I hope to debate graphic novel adaptations!
When we are first introduced to a chapter book, is the subsequent graphic novel adaptation done well or not? And in fact, for some readers the graphic novel may actually be the first and only introduction to the literary work, so how the work is portrayed is extremely important.
To start off, I read graphic novel adaptations of classics that I have read in the past, so I could compare the two. While Fahrenheit 451 is the authorized adaptation, as it was published while Ray Bradbury was still alive, the other two obviously are just some of many adaptations that have been written and/or drawn over the years.
The book includes an introduction by Ray Bradbury, which gave it an excellent gravitas as you then moved into the illustrated story. This adaption was solid, and knowing that it was approved by Bradbury helped me feel that it represented what the author was trying to convey in his initial novel.
Wuthering Heights– originally by Emily Brontë, adapted by Sean M. Wilson
I have to admit I have not read the original in all it’s entirety, for my hate for both Catherine and Heathcliff prevented me from reading every word. But I read most of it, enough to know the broad plot lines. This adaptation further cemented my thoughts on the story. I hated almost everyone in the story, except for the maid Nelly. Thus, this was a solid representation with Gothic illustrations that matched the mood of the story.
The Picture of Dorian Gray-originally by Oscar Wilde, adapted by Ian Edington & Ian Culbard
This was a rather short adaptation of the morality tale, so it ended up being more of an introduction than a complete retelling of the story. Some of Wilde’s biting wit made it into the story, but the black and white illustrations were rather simple and cartoonish. I hope that after reading this adaptation, readers will then move onto the original.
Kindred– originally by Octavia E. Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy & John Jennings
I had not read the novel before I read the graphic novel, but it was adapted so well, that I WANT to read the chapter book. Now that’s a sign of an excellent adaptation, that instead of replacing the original, I want to further delve into the story. While not done until after Butler’s death, this version was done with her estate’s permission.
I have been reading author Jonathan Kellerman’s books for years. He has a long running thriller series centered on psychologist Alex Delaware and his cop best buddy Milo Sturgis and the crimes they solve. As the series had been going on 30+ years, I assume the author wants to reach out to a new audience, thus two of his previous novels have been adapted into graphic novels with a third in the works. However, these versions are HORRIBLE, as the two adapted were were among his early, most convoluted books. This was obviously done with Kellerman’s approval, but has not received the best feedback in other’s reviews.
So what are your thoughts on graphic novel adaptations? Should classics be adapted, once their creator is dead? What about more modern books, done with the author’s permission and collaboration? Discuss!