Friday, December 13, 2013

"Only Death Could Bring Them Together." Frankenstein review

At a recent book sale I helped organize and run, I happened across a copy of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: the Graphic Novel, a 2005 publication by Puffin Graphics. I might have let the item lie right where I found it, but for taking notice of the adapters: Gary Reed and Frazer Irving.

Like so many, my ideas about the Frankenstein story owe more to Hollywood than Shelley's own work. Yes, I've read the original novel, but only once - as compared to the many, many times I've watched James Whale's Frankenstein picture (or any of the other pictures by the likes of Universal and Hammer). Reading the book as a teenager I was amazed at how different the source material was from the films, but reflected a truly authentic film adaptation wasn't really possible - the actual novel isn't big on horror movie thrills and action.

Naturally, comics have certain advantages over film in terms of pacing. This adaptation is extremely faithful to the source material (in fact, they used the same Puffin edition of Frankenstein on my bookshelf!). As in the source material, Frankenstein is the tormented protagonist and his creation is erudite but simply ugly (rather than inhuman). The early chapters concerned with Frankenstein's upbringing are plowed through somewhat more quickly than in the original text, but nothing truly important seems to be absent.

Just one year after the publication of this graphic novel, I first saw Frazer Irving's work in Iron Man: the Inevitable. At a time when so many artists at mainstream publishers were following "house styles," Irving's art stood out for his individuality - his unique style. Subsequently, I was very pleased by his work on the (all too-brief) Xombi and he's been continually making a name for himself in the past two years. Going back to this earlier work, I see a lot of effort in these pages which is, in fact, worth noting. All too often adaptations of public domain works produced by publishers from outside the comics mainstream seem to latch on to artists whose interest in the adaptation is fleeting and it shows in the work. Not so here - Irving's art is limited by the lack of colour, but he does a fine job of visualizing Shelley's book. This isn't one of the works Irving is known for, but I think any fan who tracked down a copy of this book wouldn't be disappointed - he wasn't slumming through this assignment.

There's also a few special features from Reed and Irving about the making of the adaptation, including a step-by-step process of how Irving creates his art. For an oddity I purchased for a mere $0.50, I've come away with a pretty good little comic to add to my bookshelf.

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