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
Originally published in 1993 in Angels & Visitations, this short story was apparently written in one weekend and is one of Neil Gaiman’s most reprinted stories.[i] The story is charming with a medieval knight on a quest, a wise, delightful elderly woman, and, of course, The Holy Grail found in a second-hand store. Mrs. Whitaker spends a good deal of time checking for bargains at the store and this time she finds the perfect ornament for her fireplace mantel. She barely puts it into place when Galaad arrives hoping to purchase the Grail from her to complete his quest. But, you know, it is the perfect knickknack for that spot! He continues to visit her with additional items to trade for the Grail but to no avail. He does get served tea and cake however and to visit with the enchanting woman. Eventually she makes a worthy trade for two of the exotic items he offers her: the Philosopher’s Stone and Egg of the Phoenix.
The prose story is whimsical and romantic, filled with grace, loyalty, honour, and friendship. The collaboration with Colleen Doran’s illustrations moves it beyond the charm of the prose and into the realm of magic and alchemy. Doran, a long-time collaborator and friend of Gaiman’s, wears this story with pride and her own tenure. She has created a masterpiece, interweaving the ancient tales of the Arthurian knights with a more contemporary story of a widow surrounded by memories and a quiet lifestyle in a small British village while remaining faithful to Gaiman’s writing style and text. I particularly appreciated the sharing of stories between Galaad and Mrs. Whitaker, his about his mother Elaine and other members of the Arthurian circle, illustrated in three full pages each with a series of vignettes, while Mrs. Whitaker’s stories of her husband are accompanied by images and artifacts from World War II. Doran was responsible for adapting the short story, the illustrations, and the Illuminated Manuscript Lettering. Todd Klein did the rest of the lettering which also adds to the charm and whimsy of the tale being told.
Working in watercolours, the delicate illustrations have a soft and dreamy look, harking back to the ancient Medieval illuminated manuscripts that Doran employed as inspiration. The brilliant blues and reds that make a frequent appearance on the pages add to the enigmatic and tranquil spirit of the story. In the Notes section at the end of the book she clarifies that she used 18K gold for some of the illumination, while attempting to evoke the watercolors of one of her favorite artists—Peter Rabbit creator, Beatrix Potter. The two styles compliment each other and complete the fantastical experience for the reader. No one is surprised that a medieval knight wearing armor and riding a horse visits the neighbourhood or that he finds a grail of another sort at the same second-hand store. The varied panel layout moves the story at a measured pace—this is not an action tale, this is one where the reader takes time to savour the illustrations, the prose and, perhaps, too, the idea of another cup of tea. Expressive faces and body language add an additional dimension to the story being related, especially with the incidental but important story of Marie.
I highly recommend this exquisite graphic novel for the story and the illustrations, but even more so for the collaboration between the text and art.
For those interested, there is currently an exhibition of this work at the Cartoon Art Museum: The Cartoon Art Museum presents Chivalry: The Art of Colleen Doran, an exhibition of original artwork from the Dark Horse graphic novel Chivalry illustrated by Doran and written by Neil Gaiman. This exhibition features Doran’s beautiful cover painting and twenty original pages personally selected by the artist and is on display from April 23 through September 18, 2022.
[i] Wagner, Hank, Christopher Golden & Stephen R. Bissett. Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman. N.Y.: St. Martin’s Press, 2008, 381.
Chivalry By Neil Gaiman Art by Colleen Doran Dark Horse, 2022 ISBN: 9781506719115
Related media: Book to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16) Character Representation: English
In 2006, Nancy Springer started a series of short chapter books featuring Enola Holmes, the imaginary younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes with an independent streak and a knack for solving mysteries without the aid of her brothers. The series reached six volumes, won several awards, and had a sufficient fan base to inspire a movie in 2020. Nancy Springer has returned to the series, writing a seventh addition, and the graphic adaptations, by French creator Serena Blasco and originally translated in 2018, are now being republished in omnibus format by Andrews McMeel.
In “The Case of the Missing Marquess,” Enola’s carefree life is disrupted by her mother’s abrupt disappearance. Disappointed and angry at her brothers’ dismissal of her mother and at plans to curtail her freedom, Enola cracks codes left by her mother and runs away, stopping only to solve the mystery of a kidnapped heir and discover her own skills as a detective. In “The Case of the Left-Handed Lady,” Enola is now masquerading as Ivy Meshle and makes the acquaintance of Dr. John Watson. She learns from Watson that her brothers are still searching for her, but also of the mysterious disappearance of Lady Alistair, and she decides to pursue the case herself. In a dangerous climax, she solves the case, while further building her reputation as a detective and navigating her complicated relationship with her brothers. In “The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets,” Enola is searching for a new persona with which to hide herself from her brothers, especially Sherlock, when she hears the news of Dr. Watson’s disappearance. As she works to find out what has happened to the doctor, she makes a few discoveries about her own situation and her family as well.
Serena Blasco’s art is a far cry from the original covers of the mysteries and a bit jarring to readers expecting the typical dark hues of Sherlockian Victorian London. Blasco reinterprets Enola’s surroundings with colorful, swirling watercolors, emphasizing the vibrant hues of the flowers used for coded messages and Enola’s daring disguises. Even the scenes set at night in London’s underworld are richly colored with murky blues, purples, and greens. Enola’s long brunette locks, when not hidden under brightly colored and elaborately coiffured wigs, swirl loosely around her narrow face, her sharp nose showing her likeness to her brother Sherlock. The villains are often grotesque, fitting with the pastiche flavor of the original books, with distorted, even demonic faces. Although Enola’s lodgings in London are bright and cozy, the poorest streets where she ventures dressed as a nun swirl with lavender smoke and green miasmas from the river, with figures crouching miserably in the shadows. Enola’s exaggeratedly large, lustrous eyes glow with purpose or dim with tears, as she frequently reflects on the anagram of her name, “alone,” and her mother’s absence in scenes dim with misty blues.
Art and flowers both play a part in the stories, with excerpts from newspapers, Enola’s notebook, and codes following each story, and encapsulating the events, clues, and resolution. Enola finds clues in the codes of the flowers, in her own artistic skill and in that of the women whose lives she explores, all helping her solve the mysteries. The miseries and injustice of Holmes’s London is hinted at throughout the story, as well as the curtailed lives of women—from being committed to asylums for not following society’s rules to the strictures Enola’s brothers attempt to place about her own life. There are several somewhat graphic attempts on Enola’s life, but they are not depicted so brutally as to make the title inappropriate for most middle grade readers. The Enola Holmes series has always been odd in that it fits best in a tween or middle school collection and the graphic novel adaptation is the same.
Fans of the original series may or may not be interested in this new vision of Springer’s work, and fans of the movie adaptation are unlikely to recognize the more mature figure of Enola in Blasco’s colorful fantasy, but readers who have not yet encountered Enola Holmes and enjoy mysteries with plenty of atmosphere and codes to solve are likely to enjoy this. It will also appeal to some manga fans, due to the art style.
Enola Holmes: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 1 By Serena Blasco, Nancy Springer, Tanya Gold, Andrews McNeel, 2022 ISBN: 9781524871321
Publisher Age Rating: 9-12 years Related media: Book to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13) Creator Representation: French
Apart from the adaptations of Jim Butcher’s novels Storm Front and Fool Moon, most of the Dresden Files graphic novels to date have been original works. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: Bigfoot is a notable exception, being an adaptation of “The Bigfoot Trilogy” of short stories in which wizard detective Harry Dresden is hired by a Bigfoot known as River Shoulders to help protect his son, Irwin, from various supernatural shenanigans. The only original material to be found here is in a frame story, set sometime after the events of the novel Battle Grounds, in which Harry helps Irwin and his girlfriend Connie move and is asked how he came to meet Irwin.
The first chapter, adapting “B Is For Bigfoot,” finds Harry stepping in to help Irwin deal with a bullying problem after he becomes the target of several supernaturally wicked students at the ritzy private school he’s attending. The second chapter, based on “I Was A Teenage Bigfoot,” finds Harry trying to unravel the mystery of who hexed Irwin with a spell that is sapping his strength, and why they did so. The final chapter, inspired by “Bigfoot On Campus,” places Harry in the middle of a Romeo-and-Juliet-style conflict, when it turns out Irwin’s first college girlfriend, Connie, is an emotional vampire coming into her powers, and her father has decided that Irwin’s death should send her over the edge into embracing the life of a succubus.
The adaptation script by Mark Powers sticks to Butcher’s original stories and recycles most of the dialogue directly from them. This is largely to the benefit of the graphic novel, as Butcher’s characters and comedic one-liners are the strongest and most unique aspects of the Dresden Files series. Unfortunately, Powers goes a little too far in being faithful in this adaptation and adds in moments from the short stories that add very little to the overall narrative. For instance, the final chapter includes the frame story of the original “Bigfoot On Campus,” in which Harry tries to explain the events of the story to a completely unsympathetic campus police officer. This leads this graphic novel to depict a story within a story within a story, and a flashback within a flashback, as Harry tells Connie about events for which she was present. Powers tries to cover this with Connie asking Harry for his perspective on how she and Irwin met, but it is still incredibly awkward.
The artwork by Joseph Cooper is competent, if uninspired. Cooper’s character designs resemble the characters from the books well enough, though his takes on college-age Irwin and Harry look like brothers, distinguishable only by the coloration of their hair. There’s also some fairly obvious panel recycling throughout. Sadly, this is a step-up from previous Dresden Files graphic novels, where the art was full of continuity errors. Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Bigfoot is rated Teen+ for audiences 13 and up, but I do not believe this to be a fair rating at all. The final chapter recreates one of the most sexually explicit scenes in all of the Dresden Files series, as a magical orgy breaks out in a college dormitory. While the artwork is not as explicit as it might have been, there are enough bare breasts and naked butts to raise a few eyebrows and the blood pressure of any moral guardians who find this book in a middle school or high school collection. Best shelve this with the adult graphic novels, if it must be purchased at all. Personally, I’d recommend investing in Jim Butcher’s Brief Cases anthology (which collects all of the original “Bigfoot Trilogy” short stories) instead.
Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: Bigfoot By Jim Butcher, Mark Powers, , Art by Joseph Cooper Dynamite Entertainment, 2022 ISBN: 9781524121297
Mars Attacks Red Sonja is the sort of project that only comes about because of corporate fiat. On the one hand, we have Mars Attacks—a science fiction story dictated through a 1962 Topps trading card set, which was later adapted into a 1996 movie. On the other hand, we have Red Sonja—a fantasy heroine originally created for Marvel Comics in 1973 to meet the demand for a female Conan, revived later by Dynamite Entertainment in 2005.
There is no logical way to bring these two franchises together. There is also no aesthetic reason for Dynamite Entertainment to do so. The only reason this series exists is to hoist a plethora of variant covers upon the teaming masses of comic book speculators, who will happily buy dozens of comics to secure the 1:100 variant where Red Sonja, clad in nothing but an anachronistic thong, faces down a Martian death machine several times her size.
The damnable thing is that writer John Layman does a fair job of justifying this madcap idea. The story is set in the distant past of both Mars and Earth, when the Martians were an advanced and peaceful people and Earth was savage and untamed. Enter Chief Science Advisor Xi’Zeer, a xenophobic soul who dreams of a Martian empire built on conquest. He heads to Earth on what is nominally a mission of exploration and peace, but really an excuse for him to take over Hyborian Age Earth, use the helpless humans as fodder for his weird science, and generally be a jerk without the Martian Emperor around to stop him.
The only thing standing in his way, of course, is Red Sonja. Well, Sonja and a few other random fantasy heroes who are barely given names and mostly not given dialogue, so really it is just Sonja. The setup isn’t bad, but it is a bit cliché, even by the standards of genre fiction and there’s nothing done with this war between the worlds that hasn’t been done before and done better elsewhere.
The artwork is flat and lifeless, for the most part. This is odd given how much bloodshed the story contains. Unfortunately, there’s little personality to any of the human characters and the Martian villains all maintain the same expression from scene to scene, showing emotion only as their heads are being crushed or sliced by the barbarians fighting them. The colors don’t help, with most of the comic rendered in muted pastels that don’t match the vivid coloration of the original Topps trading cards or your average Red Sonja comic.
This volume is rated Teen Plus for audiences 13 and up. I seriously question that rating, given as the violence within this book, ineffectually drawn as it is, retains enough detail to be worth a 16 Up rating, at least. There are several scenes of people and horses being cut in half, Martian and human heads being crushed with viscera leaking out, and one intensive scene involving Red Sonja being beheaded. Unfortunately, while some of the variant covers in the gallery that follows the story are inventive in paying tribute to various B-movies, the actual comic book story is easily skipped.
Mars Attacks Red Sonja By John Layman Art by Fran Strukan Dynamite Entertainment, 2022 ISBN: 9781524119935
Publisher Age Rating: 13+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Character Representation: Bisexual