Over the last few months, I’ve read a few graphic novel adaptations of works of young adult fantasy literature, each of which take different approaches to adapting the source material to a visual format. Like a movie adaption, I must say I generally prefer the book, but of course each offer a different experience in their own ways, and these can be very enjoyable new ways to experience the same story.
For instance, Stéphane Melchior-Durand and illustrator Clément Oubrerie’s adpatation was quite an impressive take on the beginning of The Golden Compass, the first book in Philip Pullman's awesome His Dark Materials trilogy. It is always interesting to see the world you've imagined filtered through the ideas and minds of another interpreter of the story, and this one really brought Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon, her home at Jordan College, Oxford, and the rest of her world to life. While following the story of the book, it is also interesting to see where the artist departs in this visual form (of course, it remains quite a bit more true to Pullman's work than the 2007 movie.) Beginning with Lyra's introduction to Dust while hiding in the closet of the Retiring Room while her uncle, Lord Asriel, reports to the faculty of Jordan College, in follows her adventures up to her voyage to the North. What, we have to wait until next September for the next installment? Oh well...
I can't think of any better style to fit the world and feeling of HDM than from the Franco-Belgian tradition, and Stéphane Melchior-Durand writing and Clément Oubrerie's shadowed, expressive art endows the characters and the world with impressive life, in particular the multitude of people and their daemons. I'm looking forward to the next one!
Andrew Donkin and Nicolas Chapuis’ fairly competent graphic novel adaptation of The Amulet of Samarkand, the first in Jonathan Stroud's Bartimeaus trilogy, the humor, action, and witty world building in the novel come through quite well here. Unlike The Golden Compass, though, this adapation is a bit more literal and does not give itself much room for its own, visual interpretation of the world.
The setting of a alternate history London under the rule of vindictive and power hungry magicians, including a London Eye incorporating a pentagram into its design, we get a good impression of things we could only imagine in the novel. The precious, yet principled magician Nathaniel and his reluctant accomplice, the ancient djinni Bartimeaus are well adapted. On the other hand, the multiple viewpoints from Bartimeaus and Nathaniel feels a bit muddled in the comic, and it's easy to lose track of who is narrating a specific scene, especially when both characters appear together. Also, attempting to capture all of the biting wit and humor shown by Bartimeaus occasionally bogs down the narrative. The art is nice, but pretty standard YA literary adaptation style. Hopefully, this will stir a reader to tackle the novel and its great sequels.
Sean Michael Wilson and illustrator Michiru Morikawa’s adaptation of nineteenth/early twentieth century western student of Japanese culture, Lafcadio Hearn, was another very interesting visual adaptation of the haunting folk stories and legends collected by Hearn. While not quite a “young adult” book, Lafcadio Hearn’s folklore and ghost stories gleaned from his travels across Japan are definitely appropriate for teens, and this comic makes good use of that. While a bit gruesome (with a few severed heads, torn off ears, etc.) the stories here are eerie and suspenseful, in particular my favorites “Hoichi the Earless,” “Yuki-onna,” and, of course, “The Faceless Ghost.” Morikawa's manga style art offers a fun introduction to these classic tales. For anyone interested in Japanese culture, these manga style adaptations should be very interesting, and introduce younger readers to Japanese history and society in addition to spooky (spooky, spooky) ghosts and other yokai.