This deluxe volume of comics adapted from stories by Edgar Allan Poe includes “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Gold Bug,” and “The Mystery of Mary Roget.” Adults will enjoy Papercutz’s re-launch of Classics Illustrated comic books, but the series’ appeal may be lost on younger generations of readers.
“The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is the first and strongest entry in this collection, wherein readers are introduced to Poe’s detective, C. Auguste Dupin. In what many consider to be the first detective story, Dupin is able to solve a seemingly unsolvable crime: the brutal murders of a mother and daughter in their home. The story starts out slow, but it will hold most readers’ attention as they notice a number of common detective tropes in the story, including the locked room mystery and an antagonistic police chief who dislikes Dupin because the detective solves all his cases first. The second story, “The Gold Bug,” is a tale in which a mysterious narrator travels to see his friend, Legrand. Legrand has discovered a gold bug and with it the possible location of Captain Kidd’s infamous treasure. This story is accompanied by beautiful artwork that depicts the swampy environs of Legrand’s island home, but it suffers from far too much commentary of the characters’ solution to a cipher. The last story, “The Mystery of Mary Roget,” is probably the collection’s weakest entry—a second Dupin story that is interesting at the start, but is bogged down by so much detail that this reviewer struggled to finish it.
The collection’s artistic style is realistic and it depicts the time period of the stories well. The buildings and their settings evoke turn-of-the-century London and the characters are dressed in the fashion of their time: the women in frilly dresses with corsets and huge bustles and the men looking debonair in three-piece suits, top hats, and canes. One of the most striking images is on the second page of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” which reveals in wordless panels a scene with simple beginnings: an open door leads up some steps to another door that has been violently broken. Inside, a trail of blood leads through a parlor, past scattered jewels and money. These unspoken visual cues lead the reader to the detective’s puzzling question: where is the daughter’s body, if not in this room? The artists have done an excellent job establishing the mood and atmosphere of Poe’s world; the colors are dark and drab, befitting tales of mystery and horror.
The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Other Tales will appeal to librarians and parents who want to put the classics in the hands of young readers. There are some teens who may find it appealing, including those who enjoy the works of Poe, Gothic settings, and murder mysteries. It may also be enjoyed by those who watch the BBC’s Sherlock or read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes stories and find themselves seeking similar material. This collection presents an opportunity to share an interesting piece of trivia with teens—many are familiar with Sherlock Holmes and would probably be surprised to see that Dupin’s adventures pre-dated Holmes by forty years or so.
While the publisher has listed this collection for teens, ages 11 to 16, it does contain potentially controversial elements. First, there is visible violence. The title story opens with the image of a bloody woman with her throat cut, lying in the middle of a street, while her dead daughter’s body has been violently stuffed into a chimney. Secondly, there are some shockingly racist elements in “The Gold Bug.” Legrand’s manservant, Jupiter, is a black man who is referred to as a Negro. His speech is hard to follow; it is written in an off-putting and phonetically inaccurate dialect. There are also many times when Jupiter acts cowardly and Legrand calls him “stupid” or threatens to beat him. The original Poe story was written in 1843, which would account for its inherent racism. While this could be an issue for some parents, it could also be an opportunity for an educational discussion regarding racism.
The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Other Tales starts out strong with the classic Dupin story with an ending that will shock and satisfy readers. The collection begins to falter as it progresses with stories that include more wordy descriptions than interesting action. This volume might have benefited from the inclusion of some better known Poe stories. “The Raven” would have been a good choice, since the artwork would have worked well with the poem, encouraging reluctant poetry readers to enjoy this classic. However, the existing selections may have been intended to introduce readers to Poe stories that are not frequently adapted.
Classics Illustrated Deluxe #10: The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Other Tales
by Edgar Allan Poe, Jean David Morvan, Corbeyran
Art by Fabrice Druet, Paul Marcel
Publisher Age Rating: 11-16