No one wants to work overtime—even if it takes facing a dragon singlehandedly in order to cut through the paperwork.
Alina Clover has a coveted job as a receptionist for the adventurer’s guild. She spends her days filing papers and assigning quests to dungeon-delving adventuring parties who battle enemies and collect treasure from progressively more dangerous labyrinths. However, Alina’s current problem comes when a particularly difficult enemy halts progress for the adventurers, leading to excessive paperwork as the heroes grind through the same challenges day after day, creating a backlog of forms. To spare herself the headache, Alina takes it upon herself, her cloak, and her magical hammer of immense power to clear the way for the adventurers to get on with things.
Unfortunately, her outburst (not the first of its kind) catches the attention of powerful figures, including the legendary adventurer Jade—who is determined to recruit the mysterious warrior to his party of warriors. Unfortunately for Alina, she’s comfortable in her employment and forbidden from taking on work outside of her receptionist duties. What started as a way to protect her position soon becomes the thing that may unravel it all as Alina finds herself caught between her day job and her secret life—a life that may also uncover secrets that will shake her world.
With I May Be a Guild Receptionist, but I’ll Solo Any Boss to Clock Out on Time, Vol. 1, Mato Kousaka delivers a fun and wildly entertaining introduction to a world based heavily in the lore and lingo of traditional Role Playing Game mechanics. With references to dungeon levels and raid bosses, this series, like a number of other recent manga titles, relies on a certain amount of reader understanding of RPG gameplay to form some of the underlying rules of the world. However, those rules only set the stage for a story that manages to carve out a unique tone of epic adventure and consistent humor. As Alina fights to maintain her comfortable life, she finds friend and foe in a colorful cast of characters who populate the wider world. The people who appear are memorable, the action is bold, and the visual humor is on point as this quiet receptionist carves her way through obstacles in an effort to pay off her mortgage and clock out on time. The writing knows exactly what story it’s there to tell and delivers beat after beat of engaging storytelling.
Capturing both the fantasy-adventure and the visual comedy, Suzu Yuuki brings the story to the page in bold fashion. The fantasy elements, action sequences, and individual characters are compelling from the start—and some of the best moments come when the unimposing Alina lets a bit of her power show as she threatens those who try to stick their noses into her business. Alina spends much of her time in the meek and respectful demeanor of many manga heroines—but when she summons a weapon the size of her own body as her face gets washed in shadow to match the threats she has no reservations making—the stark contrast and surprised terror of those around her never stops being funny. There’s minimal fan-service in the writing or visuals and Alina is largely given the space to become her own dramatic character, with party leader Jade appearing in a major supporting role as he chases down the mystery that he is sworn to solve.
Yen Press gives this title a Teen rating for language and violence and this fits well with the overall content. There are some colorful words as well as combat and death, but most of this is accompanied by a comedic tone. Teens will find plenty to appreciate here while there’s plenty to appeal to older readers as well. For audiences who like the power of Saitama in OnePunch Man or the daily life explorations of adventurers in titles such as Frieren, I May Be a Guild Receptionist should have plenty to offer. The manga is an adaptation of the light novel series and there’s expected to be an anime adaptation coming as well, so any fans of the work will have plenty of chances to spend time in this world. As much as the book draws from the rules of RPGs, it also does a fair job explaining concepts for the uninitiated. For those familiar with the genre and for those looking for an entry point into manga, this title is simple without being superficial, is delivered with skill, and is truly a fun read from start to finish. I look forward to seeing where Alina’s adventures take her next.
I May Be a Guild Receptionist, but I’ll Solo Any Boss to Clock Out Time Vol. 01 By Mato Kousaka Art by Suzu Yuuki Yen Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781975365769
Publisher Age Rating: T Related media: Book to Comic, Comic to TV
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16) Creator Representation: Japanese
The Naked Tree is an autobiographical novel by Park Wan-suh that was published in 1985. It was adapted to a graphic novel by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, translated by Janet Hong, in 2023. Booklist has spotlighted the graphic novel in its best of 2023 line-up and it has popped up in other places as a noteworthy title from the past year.
In The Naked Tree, protagonist Lee Kyeonga recounts her memories from the time of the Korean War, when she lost her two brothers, worked in a postal exchange, and became infatuated with a married artist named Ok Huido. Ok Huido is based on the real artist Park Su-geun, who Gendry-Kim writes about in the afterword. The heavy subject matter does not make for a pleasant reading experience, because The Naked Tree transports the reader to a time and place of danger, fear, and uncertainty. Kyeonga’s mercurial attitude and mean-spiritedness, especially towards her elderly, grieving mother, made me completely dislike her until the end of the book. Kyeonga’s memory of her mother’s cutting words towards her after her brothers’ deaths somewhat justified her bitterness. Upon reflection, I understood that during wartime and periods of personal loss, people are simply not at their best and Kyeonga exemplifies that.
The artistic style is unique but sometimes awkward. The faces of the characters are frequently rough caricatures, but occasionally they are drawn with more care, such as Kyeonga’s mother on p. 133. I wished that the whole work was as lovely as that larger, full-body illustration. Other times, the perspective is peculiar, such as when Kyeonga is seen from above gazing up at the falling snow. Gendry-Kim’s talent really shines in depictions of the scenery. Beautiful images of a busy street, a cathedral, the postal exchange (PX) where Kyeonga works, and the trees and houses of Kyeonga’s neighborhood bring the setting to life. Her color reproductions of Park Se-geun’s paintings are marvelous.
While The Naked Tree sparked my curiosity about the painter Park Se-geun, the odd artistic style, unlikeable main character, and melancholy tone did not appeal to me. Nonetheless, the book has its merits. Readers who are interested in civilian memoirs during wartime, and the Korean War specifically, should pick up The Naked Tree.
The Naked Tree By Keum Suk Gendry-Kim Drawn & Quarterly, 2023 ISBN: 9781770466678
Related media: Book to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Korean Character Representation: Korean
In volume one, we are introduced to Miso Kim, secretary of nine years to Youngjun Lee, who decides that she is finally able to leave the working world and focus on herself and her future. This comes as quite the surprise to narcissistic Youngjun, who can’t understand why his secretary would want to leave when they work so well together. He spends a large amount of time trying to persuade her to stay and continue working with him. From promising a promotion, her own secretary, a car, and even his hand in marriage. None of it works, so he tries more elaborate schemes to find out how to woo her. Unfortunately, Miso Kim has a secret. One that she can finally track down once she no longer has to answer to a boss who doesn’t know the meaning of time off.
In volume two, after manipulating Miso Kim onto a surprise “date”, the awkwardness is truly apparent. At least to Kim. Youngjun doesn’t seem to notice and continues to exude confidence and nonchalance throughout. Later, we learn that Youngjun pulled out all the stops to make sure Kim compared all future dates or potential dates with the one he provided as a going away present. We also learn more about Youngjun’s older brother and the mystery of what happened to Kim in her youth that she’s trying to track down. The mystery involves Youngjun and his brother in some way, which makes the relationship between them even more intriguing.
This author ably balances the plot and relationship building. We get little hints at a deeper mystery sprinkled throughout while focusing on the complicated relationship between Kim and Youngjun. It’s not love at first sight either. There are layers upon layers that get revealed slowly. By volume two, I can already see that what is happening on the surface level only looks like a simple romance. I love that there is no info dump that gives us the whole backstory yet. Although I would like to know more than what we’ve been given.
I appreciate that this series has color illustrations that incorporate a variety of textures. I find that makes it much easier to separate characters in a realistic setting (as opposed to a fantasy setting that has access to fantastical elements to make characters distinct). And I just really like color illustrations.
This series feels like new adult romance, with the hints of mystery pointing towards a darkness that isn’t present in the first two volumes. I’m not sure just how dark the story will get, so it would probably be best in a teen or adult collection. Either option is sure to find readers who fall in love with it.
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim? Vol. 1-2 By Gyeong Yun Jeong Art by MyeongMi Kim Yen Press, 2023 Vol 1 ISBN: 9781975366803 Vol 2 ISBN: 9781975366827
Publisher Age Rating: Grade 8+ NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Dr. Songsakdina “Bun” Bunnakit is a respected coroner. He is 31 and a closeted gay man who has kept his orientation a secret since his first and only attempt at romance with a man ended badly. Apart from some token attempts at retaining a girlfriend for appearances sake, Bun Is largely devoted to his work, with no real friends apart from the prosecutor Pued.
When Dr. Bun is brought in to investigate a young woman’s death, he is quick to dismiss the police theory of suicide. Bun is also suspicious of the young woman’s boyfriend, a teacher named Tan, who hardly seems upset at his girlfriend’s passing. However, as Dr. Bun is writing up his report, he is attacked in his home by a masked man, who says everyone around Dr. Bun will suffer if he doesn’t declare the death a case of suicide.
When Pued disappears shortly after Dr. Bun confides in him about the threats, he once again becomes suspicious of Tan, who is one of the few who knew of his involvement with the investigation. To Dr. Bun’s surprise, Tan comes to him with a solid alibi and wants to help find his girlfriend’s killer. Yet, there is still evidence Tan is involved in the case. More worrying, however, is the growing attraction that seems to be forming between Bun and Tan.
A graphic novel adaptation of a novel by Thai author, Sammon (which has also been adapted into a successful Thai TV drama), Manner of Death, Vol. 1 proves an exciting start to what promises to be an interesting thriller series. I hesitate to call it an erotic thriller, however, as this opening chapter is more focused on the logistics of Bun’s work as a coroner and his amateur detective work with Tan than it is the sexual tension between them. There are sex scenes, but they are tame things compared to the lion’s share of modern yaoi.
Manner of Death, Vol. 1 works equally well as a police procedural story or a romance, depending on which aspect a reader might be more interested in. The opening chapters lean more heavily upon Bun’s work, showcasing his analytic mind as he instructs a medical student in his charge on how a dead body can tell a story as vivid as one by a living person regarding how they died. The focus shifts more toward romance as the story progresses, with Bun battling his feelings for Tan, his own paranoia regarding loving a man, and his logical reasons to take anything Tan says at face value.
The artwork by Yukari Umemoto is good and matches the story. Umemoto utilizes varied character designs to keep the characters from being confused for one another. They are also very good at blocking the book’s many fight scenes.
This volume is rated for ages 16 and up. I feel this is an appropriate rating, given the mature subject matter. There is no outright nudity, and the sexual elements of the romance are relatively tame for this sort of comic. Yet with a storyline centered around violent deaths and flashbacks dealing with suicide and child abuse, this is not a comic for the weak of heart or of stomach.
Manner of Death Vol. 1 By Sammon Art by Yukari Umemoto Yen Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781975352080
Publisher Age Rating: 16+ Related media: Book to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Thai Character Representation: Gay
David Simon’s Homicide, first published in 1991, is a classic of true crime and police reporting. It was adapted for television by Simon and elements from it also appear in his later series The Wire. As a fan of Simon’s television work, I had very high expectations for this graphic adaptation from Squarzoni. In some ways, it was exactly what I hoped. In others, it fell short.
The beginning of this adaptation includes a content warning that explains that, “we have remained faithful to the original narration and dialogue. At times the words in this book are offensive, but they paint an accurate portrait of life inside Baltimore’s homicide unit in the late 1980s.” More pointedly: this book contains racial slurs, transphobia, sexual violence, and murder. None of that is surprising considering the topic, but it’s worth pointing out to both librarians and readers.
In 1988, Simon was given access to the Baltimore Police Department’s homicide unit for a year of observations and interviews. During this time, killings were common, and that day to day work forms the most interesting parts of this comic. When the focus is on departmental procedures, intense workload, and the politics of policing, this book is enthralling. Amidst that, three detectives emerge as protagonists of a sort and their most heinous cases become the main plotline.
One of those plot threads is the rape and murder of an eleven-year-old, which causes enough outrage in the department and the city at large to spur a large manhunt. This, too, is engrossing. Unfortunately, this volume ends at the climax of the search, leaving that plot hanging for the sequel. I understand the use of cliffhangers to drive readership, but I wish that was not the case here. There is plenty left to adapt for future volumes, so I wish Squarzoni had resolved one of the major cases here.
The art is serviceable but unexciting. People are drawn realistically with a reasonable amount of detail, as are backgrounds when they are used. The coloring is a standout; most of the book is black and white with shades of gray, but red appears frequently to draw attention to the bloody aftermath of a crime scene. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot that makes the characters distinct visually and I had a hard time keeping straight who is who, which makes it difficult to keep track of the various cases.
Ultimately, this is a serviceable adaptation and a welcome addition to true crime graphic novels. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of something like From Hell, but it does have the benefit of being entirely true with no fictional elements to bolster the narrative. It reminded me of Torso in a lot of ways and should have a place in larger public library collections. However, it’s not a necessary purchase in the way the original book was. The best thing about Homicide is that it made me want to rewatch The Wire, but that’s not a bad thing.
Homicide: The Graphic Novel, Part One By David Simon, Philippe Squarzoni Art by Philippe Squarzoni Macmillan First Second, 2023 ISBN: 9781250624628
Related media: Book to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+) Creator Representation: French
Rivers of London is a supernatural horror series that I have been aware of for some time, but never had the chance to read. I recognized the name of the author, Ben Aaronovitch, from Doctor Who and recalled him as the writer of one of the best episodes of all time, “Remembrance of the Daleks.” I finally took the plunge with the graphic novel Deadly Ever After. Unfortunately, Deadly Ever After proved as big a disappointment to me as Dynamite Comics’ adaptations of the Dresden Files.
The Rivers of London series (aka the Peter Grant or PC Grant series) is set in an alternate London where magic is real and a special department called the Folly protect ordinary people from the supernatural. Most of the Rivers of London stories center around newbie wizard Peter Grant as he investigates various crimes and copes with the many gods and monsters that secretly populate London. Deadly Ever After is an entirely different story.
Deadly Ever After centers around two young river goddesses, Chelsea and Olympia, who are easily bored and would rather spend their days smoking weed and hanging out than doing whatever it is respectable goddesses are meant to spend their days doing. Their showing off to a random mortal winds up unleashing a vengeful spirit who was kidnapped by fairies centuries earlier and has returned to an unfamiliar London even more cynical than the one they left behind. This leads to the twins trying desperately to cover up their crime before their mother or the Folly get involved, as the spirit starts trying to make fairy tales come true in order to prove the power of stories and that fairies are real.
The idea of supernatural creatures reenacting fairy tales is one of the most played out tropes in modern fantasy and Deadly Ever After does nothing to change the formula. Any fan of the genre will immediately see where the story is going the minute a little girl in a red hoodie runs out of the woods screaming about something attacking her grandmother. This might be tolerable were the narration of the book not offering a metatextual commentary on the cliches, literally describing Chelsea and Olympia as “feeling like they were in their own detective comic about glamorous teen Londoners.”
The artwork is similarly lackluster. Jose Maria Beroy’s artwork is competent and they have a firm grasp of anatomy. Unfortunately, the artwork doesn’t fit the dark theme of the story, being too posed and static. The bright colors and light inks don’t help matters.
The damnable thing is that Deadly Ever After might cut the mustard as a young adult comic aimed at an audience that is less familiar with this sort of story than the average urban fantasy fan. Unfortunately, the blood and violence are intense enough and the language adult enough to make this book unsuitable for any audience younger than an OT/16+. I fear anyone old enough to handle the content is likely to find the two protagonists insufferably selfish and annoying. I may give Rivers ofLondon another shot, but this volume gave me a very poor impression of the series.
Rivers of London, vol. 10: Deadly Ever After By Celeste Bronfamn, Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Art by Jose Beroy Titan, 2023 ISBN: 9781787738591
Related media: Book to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Character Representation: Black
After losing his best friend in a bus accident, Tristan is sent to stay with his grandparents for a month on their Alabama farm. The grief counselor thinks the fresh air and quiet will help Tristan process the trauma. Unfortunately, Gum Baby snatches the only thing Tristan has left of his friend, a journal of stories, and leads him on a chase that ends at a bottle tree. In his anger, Tristan punches one of the glass bottles which releases a haint (evil spirit) and tears a hole between his world and Gum Baby’s, called MidPass.
In MidPass, Tristan meets more of the characters from his grandmother’s old stories; Brer Rabbit, John Henry, Brer Fox, and the People Who Could Fly. They work together to find the Story Box and replenish the stories to draw Anansi out to mend the hole between worlds. Along the way, Tristan meets the mysterious Uncle C, who also wants the stories to regain his strength. Tristan struggles with what being strong means and how to find his own strength.
I knew about many of the legends mentioned in this story but not a lot of specifics. The adapter did a great job presenting enough information that the audience could follow along without drowning in the details. Honestly, I enjoyed learning about the stories from a culture I am less familiar with and appreciated that stories are presented as powerful as physical strength.
Tristan does plenty of punching throughout the story as the title implies, which is showcased in full color. It was wonderful to see all the brown skin tones. The illustrations have enough details to convey what is happening in the story without making the art too heavy. And there are plenty of panels full of lighter colors to balance out the darker earthy backgrounds.
Since this is from the Rick Riordan Presents lineup, it is marketed to readers between the ages of 8-12, and I agree with that assessment. There are some heavy subjects like grief, loss, and slavery; however, the story is not focused on those things. This would be an excellent addition to any graphic novel or general library collection.
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky: The Graphic Novel By Kwame Mbalia, and Robert Venditti Art by Olivia Stephens Rick Riordan Presents, 2022 ISBN: 9781368072809
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12 Related media: Book to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13) Creator Representation: African-American, Character Representation: African-American
Whenever a movie adaptation of a popular book comes out, some people will bombard their social media with angry posts proclaiming that this movie will fall way short of the book’s genius. It’s a popular and well-worn refrain to say that the book is always better than the movie and people could spend all day compiling examples that prove the validity of this statement, but is the same true for the visual medium of graphic novels? Graphic novels tell a story visually, just as a movie does, through the use of comic panels and word balloons, and may sometimes even utilize sound effects like POW!, but is the retelling of a story through a visual medium automatically a lesser representation of the original work? The graphic novel adaptation of Joe Hill’s Rain, adapted by writer David M. Booher and illustrated by Zoe Thorogood is evidence to the contrary.
People who have read Joe Hill’s novella are familiar with the premise: One day, instead of water droplets falling from the sky, needle-like crystalline shards descend from the clouds, shredding any living thing that isn’t under cover. This day was supposed to be the best day of Honeysuckle Speck’s life, the day she moved in with her girlfriend Yolanda, but the rain came and punctured her happily ever after. After surviving the storm and burying her girlfriend, Honeysuckle goes on a quest that takes her outside of the city and under a sky that could any minute rain death upon her.
Joe Hill’s original story does what great apocalypse stories do best: it makes clear the always-present danger of this new status quo while showing moments of humanity from its characters. Honeysuckle has already had so much taken away from her that she makes the perfect protagonist that could survive a rain of crystal nails. Booher’s story doesn’t miss any of these fundamentals that made the original work. There seem to be some changes here and there, but they also weren’t drastic enough to change the story’s overall tone and conflict.
Does adding artwork to Hill’s tale add or subtract to what the original created? It’s one thing for Hill to describe with text what a rain of crystal nails would do to a human body, but Thorogood’s artwork shows how one can be visceral even without a slaughterhouse’s worth of blood. In apocalyptic television shows and movies like I am Legend and The Walking Dead, images of life after that apocalyptic event serve to constantly remind the viewer that the reliably civilized world these characters have occupied for a majority of their lives no longer exists, and Thorogood’s artwork is a constant reminder that every moment for Honeysuckle Speck and the other people occupying this universe is a fight to survive.
It’s possible that Joe Hill-written graphic novels like Locke & Key and Basketful of Heads are already in a library’s collection, and this book could fit right alongside it, as well as find its way into a collection on its own merit. By reimagining Joe Hill’s story for a new medium, Booher and Thorogood not only create a harrowing, heartfelt apocalyptic tale; they have also created an example of how telling a story through a visual medium doesn’t diminish it.
Joe Hill’s Rain By David M. Booher Art by Zoe Thorogood Abrams, 2022 ISBN: 9781534322691
Publisher Age Rating: 13 and up Related media: Book to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Gay, Character Representation: Lesbian,
Critics of graphic novels will often say that reading graphic novels isn’t truly reading and nothing could be further from the truth. While there might not be as many words within a graphic novel, the pictures themselves are there to help tell a story. Much in the same way directors and cinematographers must think about lighting and composition when making a movie, so must the artist work together with the writer to help create the setting, the characters, and even events that help move the story along. Therefore, graphic novel adaptations of popular works are not a dumbed-down version of the story, but tells the story in a different way. This is the case for the graphic adaptation of Mary Downing Hahn’s Wait Till Helen Comes, illustrated by Meredith Laxton and Russ Badgett.
Those who remember Hahn’s tale of middle school hauntings and family drama will find the same story beats here. The story still follows siblings Molly and Michael, who are annoyed by their younger stepsister Heather who does everything she can to get Molly and Michael in trouble. The blended family move out to the country where, in the graveyard near their home, Heather discovers a grave belonging to a girl named Helen. She soon starts to threaten her step-siblings that they will be sorry because Helen is coming. Helen might not be as dead as Molly and Michael thought, and she seems to be willing to do whatever Heather asks.
Hahn’s stories are just the right fit for young readers who like just a little scary, even if adults might find it tiresome. There are elements of genuine spookiness and dramatic tension in this adaption by Scott Peterson, but adults especially might notice that there is no real sense that anything too terrible will happen. Sure, the blended family is a great source of conflict, particularly when Heather’s dad takes up for his daughter no matter what she does, but those dynamics aren’t the story’s focus; instead, it focuses on Molly, Heather, and Helen. Heather and Helen have a very parallel narrative while Molly, as the main protagonist, is the one who must develop some kind of sisterly bond with a sister she and the readers can barely tolerate. Adults might call this kind of story “Terror with Training Wheels,” but it’s perfect for kids who want a bit of terror beyond R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps.
The artwork by Laxton and Badgett isn’t spectacular splash pages and precariously placed panels. Instead it simply serves the purpose of moving the story along. Fans of Hahn’s original stories might like to see if their version of Molly fits into how she is drawn here, but they will also see Helen as a ghost who could easily be a living character painted white and having access to a fog machine. There are a few moments when Heather warns her older siblings that Helen is coming, and they can see her expression turn slightly sinister, but the artwork here isn’t designed to dazzle the reader.
But does this basic approach make this graphic novel adaptation a bad one? To answer such a question, it’s important to ask why go through the trouble of adapting a well-known story into a graphic novel format. There are possibilities to experiment with how the story is told, or even how it’s portrayed. Different looks for Heather and Helen could have made the book even scarier, but that might distract from its purpose to introduce Hahn’s stories to fans of graphic novels. The book might not be breaking new ground in this story, but it is perhaps a less intimidating introduction to Hahn’s work and to juvenile horror in general. This adaptation of Wait Till Helen Comes is still asking young readers to process how the pictures and words tell a story, which may lead into a deeper appreciation of graphic novels and, in general, of reading.
Wait Till Helen Comes By Mary Downing Hahn, Scott Peterson Art by Meredith Laxton, Russ Badgett Harper Collins, 2022 ISBN: 9780358536901
Bringing Jules Verne’s work to the distant future, this story of secrets, trauma, and survival captures the spirit and adventure of classic literature while also embracing a new vision for a story many may not have encountered before now.
From Image Comics, Jules Verne’s Lighthouse adapts the early 20th century novel The Lighthouse at the End of the World into a sci-fi epic set in the far reaches of the galaxy in the year 2717. In a time where humans, aliens, and robots live and work together, a small band oversee the isolated, advanced supercomputer known as The Lighthouse, which guides interstellar ships safely through a series of wormholes on their journeys to outer reaches of space. However, when a violent band of pirates arrives at The Lighthouse and seizes control, military veteran Vasquez and her robot assistant Moses are the only ones to escape into the dangerous landscape around the installation. Cut off from help and low on resources, it falls to Vasquez to uncover the pirates’ reasons for seizing the facility and try to stop their plans before it’s too late—if she can face the demons of her own past and survive long enough to see the job done, that is.
Opening with Vasquez’s narration, this miniseries immediately captures something of the tone of the classic adventure novels that form its foundation. Though I have not read Verne’s original novel, many of the markers of its plot are alive and well in this adaptation from Hine and Haberlin. From the dramatic arrival of the pirates through Vasquez’s desperate struggles to escape and into the final confrontation, this comic is a classic conflict of wills and might as our beleaguered hero faces incredible odds and ever-increasing stakes. However, the creators do not tie themselves wholly to the source material. Making use of the sci-fi reimagining, they create and expanded world of inter-planetary conflict, factious alliances, and world-razing warfare. It is in this blending of traditional adventure and grand science fiction that the comic finds life beyond a simple retelling of Verne’s work.
Though some of the thematic work around race, trauma, and warfare doesn’t always have quite enough room to breathe over the course of five action-packed issues, the creators achieve a great deal of depth and complexity within this single volume. Though there are plenty of action sequences, the story does not shy away from the darkness of its heroes or the nuances of its villains. With bold twists and a larger world always creeping in at the edges of the narrative, Hine and Haberlin show that they understand the dual genres they are working in and strive to do justice to both.
Meanwhile, Haberlin’s artwork does a great deal to capture the reimagined world of this version of the story. Opening on The Lighthouse floating amidst a starry expanse dotted with wormholes, the beauty and isolation of the story are immediately clear. The art brings a roughness and realism to the pages while still bringing style to the realism, displaying both the grand and the personal in bold fashion. The paneling and art move the story along, delivering a quick pace, occasional humor, and moments of shock in just the right places. Personally, Moses’s perpetually awkward robot grin was a highlight of a consistently dependable visual style.
Image gives Jules Verne’s Lighthouse a Mature rating, and with strong language, violence, and some mature thematic material, it is definitely intended for older audiences, be they mature teens or adults. For any collection that prizes adventure stories as well as science fiction, this title is well worth adding to the shelves. While being a complex and exciting tale in its own right, it’s also a great way to introduce readers to a novel they might never have encountered before. For a miniseries with great ambitions—that are mostly achieved by the end—Jules Verne’s Lighthouse isn’t the most remarkable comic out there, but it’s certainly worth considering for a place on the shelves.
Jules Verne’s Lighthouse By David Hine, Brian Haberlin, , Art by Brian Haberlin Image, 2021 ISBN: 9781534319936
Publisher Age Rating: M Related media: Book to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Character Representation: Assumed Hispanic or Latine, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder