Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

I recently read the graphic novel adaptation of Coraline by Neil Gaiman, adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell. I think the graphic novel definitely stands up to the creepiness of the book. The style of this graphic novel adaptation is much more attuned to classic American comics, instead of the usual graphic novels I read and have reviewed here.

Coraline and her family have moved to a new house and she's bored out of her mind. She's adventurous and curious-- probably a bad combination. She discovers a bricked-up door that is not actually closed off all the time, and she ends up in.... her house? She discovers her Other Mother and Other Father, somewhat "off" versions of her real parents. These Other Parents love her and want her to stay, but something is wrong, and now Coraline has to use her wits to escape the Other Mother's grasp.

This adaptation struck me as being a rougher style than I was expecting, and more reliant on the text to carry the story instead of the images. Coraline looks older than I envisioned her, and didn't give me the same impression as she did in the original. The representations of the Other Mother and Other Father were more horrific and grotesque as well. It's interesting to think about graphic novel adaptations of novels. I have enjoyed some of them and found them very true to the novels, and while I would say that this graphic novel adaptation of Coraline is true to the novel, I think it's a bit more intense! What you could imagine and picture in the story is visually in front of you, and possibly more graphic than you expected. I read Coraline several years ago now, and I have only most recently watched the stop-animation film adaptation, and I don't think any of the three can really be judged by the same criteria. They each offer a different experience for a different audience.

I think that this was a well-adapted graphic novel, in a style well-suited to a Neil Gaiman work. It offers readers a different experience. The art is dynamic, but simple. The quirky, creepy story works well as a graphic novel. The illustrator utilizes warm and cool palettes to represent different spaces and evoke certain feelings, and pays attention to the details and what colors to make them stand out.  The expressions are fairly static, but the text keeps the story flowing nicely.

Fans of Coraline, Neil Gaiman, or P. Craig Russell would likely be interested in reading this adaptation. Readers of horror and fantasy novels and graphic novels are recommended to read this as well. While the comic is not gory, I wouldn't recommend it if you're squeamish about horror elements-- it's one thing to read about it, it's another to see it!

People talk about film adaptations of books quite often, but what do you think about graphic novel adaptations of books? How do you think the adapter develops their version to make it true to the original and a version that can stand on its own?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Bride's Story Vol. 1 by Kaoru Mori

A Bride's Story by Kaoru Mori is a manga that makes me totally geek out over the 19th century Silk Road, pretty much right on par with how obsessed I was with my undergraduate work with art history (focus on Asian art). Where do I even begin? The story is engaging, and though it's not particularly fast-paced, it doesn't lack action. The setting is Central Asia, part of the Silk Road, in the 19th century. There are nomadic herdsmen and tradesmen as well as cities built up at intersections for trade routes. Central Asian horse-people are my absolute favorite cultures, and the history of the Silk Road is one of my favorite topics.

The bride-- Amir-- is a strong woman. She's 20 years old-- 8 years older than her groom-- and from a nomadic tribe in Central Asia. She can hunt (with a bow!), sew, ride, cook, and is quite independent. She surprises her new family all the time with her skills and knowledge, but they also see that she is caring and gentle with her husband and his family.

Karluk is 12 years old, which is a more typical age for marriage (Amir is regarded as a very old bride!), and is the heir to his family's wealth as part of a tradition of ultimogeniture (junior right). Karluk feels compelled to reassure Amir that he does not worry that she is older. He cares for his family and Amir, and often is taken aback by his strong bride (but in a good way!).

The art is absolutely beautiful. I cannot emphasize this enough. Kaoru Mori captured the art and styles of Central Asia wonderfully. I took time to admire the details on the clothing, architecture, and decor. Kaoru Mori made it a point to represent horses that looked like Central Asian horses, and in the notes she specifically refers to the Akhal-teke horse.

Photo by SpiritOfTheDeep on DeviantArt
(Google it, the photo above is a beautiful horse, but alone does not capture how splendid these horses are-- their coats look metallic!!)

She also captures the environment and nature to place even more attention on the setting of the story.

The first volume introduces the characters and poises the story for future events. This really is more of a slice-of-life manga; the chapters are tied together, but they each stand alone as separate stories as well. I finished the first volume, and though I'm eager to read the next, I don't feel like the story left me feeling unsatisfied at all!

A Bride's Story is a great graphic novel for readers who: like an interesting story; appreciate beautiful, detailed art; are interested in a historical fiction set in Central Asia; are Silk Road nerds like me; or are just looking for something new to read that deviates from action-packed or romance manga. I love this manga for its beautiful art, the Silk Road setting, and its awesome female protagonist.

If you're not into 19th century Silk Road, try Emma instead! Emma is set in 19th century Victorian London. It is also by Kaoru Mori, and features an upstairs-downstairs romance. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson

Hilda and her mom live out in the country and enjoy their life away from the town. However, they receive mysterious tiny letters that tell them to leave and that their house will be smashed! Hilda writes back to the hidden people, as they are known by her and her mum, telling them to leave them alone because they are nice people!
A voice in her head visits her, well not really, a hidden person visits her. After signing a stack of tiny papers Hilda is let in on the secret and can suddenly see the hidden people! Their house is surrounded by tiny houses and there are tiny people everywhere. Apparently Hilda and her mother live in the middle of one country, and their valley makes up three countries. They did live peacefully in the valley, but when the new prime minister of the hidden people was elected, he had promised to get rid of Hilda and her mum, so they aggressively began attacking!
All the while, a mysterious giant-- no, not a forest giant-- is seen nearby. It's up to Hilda to try to make friends with the hidden people (if not, Hilda's mom said they have to move to the town!) and figure out what this giant is all about.
I would recommend Hilda and the Midnight Giant to graphic novel fans or newbies. It's great for all ages, and it features a wonderful girl protagonist. The illustrations are full of rich color and excellent expression and character. I particularly like Twig, Hilda's pet (a sort of fox with antlers). It's a good standalone story that will be enjoyable to anyone looking for a quirky tale. It is however, the second Hilda book-- Hildafolk is the first, and this one is followed by Hilda and the Bird Parade. I didn't feel that not reading the first affected my enjoyment or comprehension of the story. This is an album-sized graphic novel (think the size of Tintin or Asterix) so the illustrations (full color, by the way) can be explored in more detail.