Two recent graphic-novel adaptations of classic stories have their strengths, but overall demonstrate the adage, “the book is better.”
A Wrinkle in Time by
Madeleine L’Engle, adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson. Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2012, 391 pages.
The James Patterson blurb on
the back cover praises the “colorful panels” but the first thing a reader
notices is that the only actual color is blue.
It’s hard to understand this decision.
With so many pages to produce, color might have seemed too expensive,
but any adaptation of a popular classic might be expected to sell itself. Splashes of color would have been a welcome
addition to certain parts of the story, such as the interim in Uriel. As it is, the pages get a bit
monotonous. Some of the illustration is
striking and original, other parts a bit prosaic. At least this adaptation (unlike the movie)
stays true to the original, and I like the treatment of Meg. She comes across in the illustrations as a
difficult, spiky character, as she is in the book. Calvin is faithful and true, but no
dreamboat. Charles Wallace is too much
the elfin, large-eyed, angelic genius (but then, I have problems with his
character in the book, too). I find this
adaptation moderately successful for a reader who wants to engage with the
ideas behind A Wrinkle in Time
without actually reading it, but not an artistic triumph.
Overall rating: 3.75 (out of 5);
Worldview/moral value: 4.5, Artistic value: 3
The Giver by Lois
Lowry, adapted by P. Craig Russell.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019, 176 pages.
Laying all my cards on the
table at the outset: I think The Giver
is a better novel than A Wrinkle in Time,
and I think this is a better adaptation of the novel, artistically. To be fair, Wrinkle presents a bigger challenge in imagining other-worldly
places and spiritual concepts. The aims
of the The Giver are more modest and
easily reached. Not to say it’s easy to present an entire novel in
panels without leaving out anything important.
This approach is pretty straightforward—no jarring angles or
perspectives, and the artistic style is standard American realism in the mold
of Will Eisner and Stan Lee. Color has a
particular significance in the plot, made-to-order to a graphic treatment as we
see Jonas perceiving color sporadically at first. Black-white-and-gray panels (with touches of
blue) suddenly flash to reds or golds, until at the end it’s all full-color. All the essentials of the story are
communicated well, though I was a little disappointed with the depiction of
Jonas, who appeared to have only two or three facial expressions. It’s no substitute for the novel, but could
be an engaging pre-read or interesting post-read for comparison. A q&a with the author and the artist at
the back of the book shed some light on the problems of interpreting text with
Overall rating: 4 (out of 5), Worldview/moral value: 4, Artistic value 4
Watch for a list of more graphic-novel titles tomorrow!
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