Category Archives: Graphic Novel Reviews

The Supernaturalist: The Graphic Novel (2012) – Colfer/Donkin/Rigano/Lamanna

From the same people who teamed up to bring us the graphic novel adaptations of the Eoin Colfer’s first two Artemis Fowl books comes the graphic novel adaptation of Colfer’s The Supernaturalist. In my review of the original book, I complained about how everything moved so fast that I had problems picturing things in my head, even when I slowed down and re-read passages for clarification. I had hoped that the graphic novel would clear up some of those things and help me to see certain aspects of the book more clearly. In a way, it did, but I didn’t agree with the way everything was portrayed.

For starters, why do the lightning rods look like guns? A “rod” is a straight, stick-shaped piece of wood/metal/etc…guns don’t look like that. I also didn’t care for the way the Parasites were drawn; I had imagined little blue beetle-like creatures, similar to R.A.L.P.H. from Spy Kids 2. And, lastly, Cosmo looks too effeminate for me…at least, he does while he still has hair. When the hair is gone, he looks better, but the way he is shown on the cover (he’s the one in the front) just looks bad. I suppose I can’t complain, though; you know what they say – beggars can’t be choosers. Still…I wish things like those had been closer to how I initially envisioned them.

The artwork is sharp and the colors are nice, though the limited color palette used (a sort of grungy, dark one) would not have been my initial choice. It works, though, and it does a great job of capturing the tone of the book. Satellite City is not a nice place to live, and this choice of color palette emphasizes that point pretty clearly.

Like the Artemis Fowl graphic novels, The Supernaturalist is very condensed and occasionally choppy and understandably so. It’s not like they can make the graphic novel the same length as the book, and I had just finished re-reading the book anyway, so it didn’t really bother me. What did bother me, however, is how the artwork was occasionally drawn across both the left and right pages – something that would have been fine if they did a better job of indicating when the story continued across the page gap. There were too many times when I would read left to right, top to bottom on the left page, confused, only to glance at the top of the right page and discover that the artwork from the left had continued onto the right in one big panel. I got quite irritated.

Aside from those one or two little quarrels, The Supernaturalist: The Graphic Novel makes for a nice companion to the original book; as is the case with the Artemis Fowl graphic novels, it is better to read one (the book) or both, but never the graphic novel alone – you miss out on too much when you choose not to read the book, just as you would with watching a movie adaptation of a book. Overall, the Artemis Fowl graphic novels look better and flow better, though…in my opinion, of course. Read them all and decide for yourself!

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

-Chad

P.S. – In case you missed it above, read my review of the original book that this graphic novel is based on here!

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Batman: The Killing Joke (1988) – Alan Moore/Brian Bolland

I’ll start off with this: The Killing Joke is not for kids, and even teenagers should be discretionary. This is mature material..heck, the back of my copy even says “SUGGESTED FOR MATURE READERS”. You’ve been warned.

Also, I should note that I read the new re-colored Deluxe Edition. Same panels, different colors than the original.

The Killing Joke is short but far from sweet – in fact, it’s actually pretty disturbing. This graphic novel is more a story of the Joker than of Batman, giving us a glimpse into the back story of the character. The evolution of a failed comedian into a crazed madman are presented as flashbacks throughout. These flashbacks are presented in black and white with an occasional item colored in, which is fantastic: when the big first reveal of the newly-created Joker appears, the contrast of the stark black and white to the vividly green hair, red lips, and pale white face sends a chill up my spine.

In fact, I would say that the artwork/coloring of The Killing Joke is the best part. I haven’t read the original from the 1980s with the different colors, but a comparison can be found here. Just based on those quick comparisons, I must say that the recolored edition looks so much better than the original; for me, the colors seem more realistic, and making the flashback sections primarily black and white helps to better follow what is and isn’t “present-day”.

All of that being said, though, the story is pretty interesting as well. The story revolves around the Joker trying to make Commissioner Gordon go insane. Why? Because he’s the Joker and that’s the kind of thing he does. Christopher Nolan actually gave Heath Ledger a copy of The Killing Joke as a reference for the character before filming The Dark Knight. Some men just want to watch the world burn – this graphic novel definitely shows that the Joker is one of those men.

The Killing Joke, as mentioned, is disturbing, but it’s interesting and compelling all the same. Though it explores the origin of the Joker, easily the most famous Batman villain of all time, it also explores the relationship between the Joker and Batman. In fact, it starts with Batman visiting the Joker’s cell in Arkham Asylum to talk about their relationship – about how they’re probably on a path to killing each other, a sentiment that is echoed in Nolan’s The Dark Knight when the Joker says, “I think you and I are destined to do this forever.” It’s a combination of the artwork, the Joker’s origin story, and this relationship between Joker and Batman that makes The Killing Joke such a great Batman graphic novel.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

-Chad


Batman: The Long Halloween (1996/1997) – Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale

Continuity-wise, The Long Halloween sort of follows Year One‘s story-line, continuing Batman and Gordon’s quest to rid the city of crime. The Long Halloween, like Year One, was a huge influence on the Christopher Nolan films Batman Begins and  The Dark Knight; in fact, there are a couple of scenes in the graphic novel that were translated directly to The Dark Knight. While Year One introduced Batman and Jim Gordon, well, The Long Halloween introduces pretty much everyone else, from Catwoman to the Joker to the Riddler and so on. We even see Harvey Dent’s transformation into Two-Face! 

Christopher Nolan, director of the newest Batman film trilogy, called The Long Halloween an “epic tragedy”, and that description is right on the mark. A murderer who comes to be known as “Holiday” starts killing people on holidays, and everyone tries to figure out who is doing it, including The Joker and The Riddler…a “this town isn’t big enough for the two of us” kind of thing. It’s bloody and dark.

The art in this graphic novel is fantastic. Everything is so sharp and dense and, though I hate to use this word, gritty. It’s got a sense of realism that makes the story all the more compelling, and the limited color range of the artwork adds to this even more. The darker, more bland color scheme gives a sort of crime noir feel to it.

Bottom line: The Long Halloween is one of the top 5 best Batman comic story arcs of all time, and it heavily influenced the Nolan Batman films that we all love. It’s dark, brutal, and completely engrossing; if you’re a Batman fan at all, you’ll love it.

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

-Chad


Batman: Year One (1987) – Frank Miller/David Mazzucchelli

Last week, I decided to order a few graphic novels online, and, supposedly being the best Batman comic ever written, Batman: Year One was at the top of my list, along with The Long Halloween and The Killing Joke (don’t worry; The Dark Knight Returns is also on my list!). They all arrived in the mail today, and Year One was the first I read.

Holy awesome, Batman! I’ve only read a few comics in my day, and none of them were Batman; this blew them all out of the water. Though I really enjoyed the artwork, it was the story that really amazed me. It was well-written and did something that I didn’t expect from a Batman comic: it focused more on Jim Gordon than Batman. You see, the “Year One” in the title refers not only to Bruce Wayne’s first year in the suit but Jim Gordon’s first year on the Gotham police force as well, and he’s really the focus of the story.

It’s quite clear to see that Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer’s screenplay for Batman Begins drew heavily from this graphic novel, borrowing elements like Batman’s reason to dress like a bat, the inner corruption of the Gotham PD, and other like elements. Lieutenant Fox (as he is at this point in time) is tough and well-liked by the community but not by his co-workers, adding on stress to an already stressful job. We see the effect of the death of Batman’s parents in his childhood and how it affects him as an adult, and we see that, even early on, Batman does whatever he can to stop crime without killing.

The emphasis of the story is summed up at the start of one of the chapters, when it refers to Gotham as a city that “likes being dirty”, and it’s the job of Gordon, a clean cop in a dirty PD, and Batman, a caped crusader who instills fear in the criminals of Gotham, to wipe out crime and make the city a place that no longer needs a Batman.

The art is fantastic, the story is grounded and real, and it is the definitive origin story of Gotham’s Dark Knight. This is a great place for anyone to get started in Batman comics.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

-Chad


Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident – The Graphic Novel (2009) – Colfer/Donkin/Rigano/Lamanna

Like the first one, the graphic novel for The Arctic Incident is a visual treat that is a very faithful adaptation of the source material. In fact, both graphic novels largely feature direct quotes from the books on which they were based, which is both a blessing and a curse. Oftentimes, the direct quotes are words by the author that were not actually spoken by the characters, but are rather given from the outside. Using quotes like this in the graphic novel usually requires attributing them to the characters on hand, which often comes across as awkward and unnecessary.

I also feel like the potential of the graphic novel format was wasted. Yes, I’m glad that they were faithful and that they looked great, but why would you only adapt it? Why not give it something new that you wouldn’t get from the book – aside from pictures, of course. There were a couple of instances in The Arctic Incident‘s graphic novel where you get pages that are intended to be background information, but even these are sometimes direct copies from the book. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to maybe sneak in background information in the same manner that wasn’t in the book. Give us something new to chew on.

However, one thing that I really do enjoy about the graphic novels is that it gives me a chance to clear up some things if I had trouble visualizing something from the book on my own. Since Colfer was directly involved with the creation of the graphic novel, it’s safe to say that, for the most part, what we’re seeing is how he initially envisioned the characters he created, as well as the situations he put those characters in.

Despite its flaws, The Arctic Incident: The Graphic Novel is very good – an excellent companion to its book counterpart. If you choose to read only one, read the book.

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of the original book that this graphic novel is based on here!


Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel (2007) – Colfer/Donkin/Rigano/Lamanna

THE GRAPHIC NOVEL

The story is very well-adapted by the author and Andrew Donkin, and the art/color are quite vivid and a pleasure to behold. While most of the characters looked differently than I imagined, getting to see this world come alive was just the best. If you like the book, buy the graphic novel. However, I would definitely recommend it as a companion to the book; it’s too (understandably) choppy to stand on its own.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of the original book that this graphic novel is based on here!