Have you ever pondered, “How is a raven like a writing desk?” It’s not something Alice had ever wondered until she fell down a rabbit hole, grew and shrank by eating and drinking, and found herself at a tea party with a mad hatter, a dormouse, and a March hare. Of course, the riddle of ravens and writing desks is never answered, but neither are most of the curious phenomena explained in the original.
The graphic novel of Alice in Wonderland follows the first of Lewis Carroll’s books relatively faithfully, at least through the first half. However, Alice’s participation in the Queen of Hearts’ trial over tarts is as the accused, instead of as a witness for the Knave of Hearts, and the conclusion feels rushed. But the silliness and frivolity with underlying symbolism remain, as Alice journeys through Wonderland.
Many of the famous quotes are repeated (though all of the dialogue is abridged) and the exposition is done through images. Still, you meet the caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts and her court, and many of the other main characters of the original novel. The imaginative weirdness remains the focus, with the reader following Alice in her confused romp through a land without rules. Or, if there are rules, no one seems to be following them.
The art is interesting, with exaggerated facial expressions like those often found in manga playing out on Alice’s face. It is also decidedly non-Tenniel, with blunt bangs and a bob cut for Alice, though many of the original book’s images are referenced in these interpretations. The colors are spot on, playing up the mood and tone of the story as Alice gets herself in various scrapes. The one piece that threw me off, however, is the depiction of the Mad Hatter, who appears to be a caricature of Jay Leno with a tall hat. This might have been to distinguish this work from the 1950’s Disney movie and the recent Johnny Depp depiction.
This book could be a nice introduction to the original story, though the minor plot changes might throw a reader off. Still, Alice’s adventures embody imagination and quirkiness that suit a graphic novel interpretation, making it more approachable for a curious reader. After all, it can be intimidating to approach a world where, “we’re all mad here.”