Graphic Novel Review: The Graveyard Book Vol. 1 by P. Craig Russell

20262401The Graveyard Book Volume 1
adapted by P. Craig Russell
July 29, 2014
HarperCollins
Format: Hardcover, 192 pages
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book in any way.

Synopsis:

It Takes a Graveyard to Raise a Child.

Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completelynormal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised by ghosts, with a guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the dead.

There are adventures in the graveyard for a boy—an ancient Indigo Man, a gateway to the abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible Sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, he will be in danger from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family.

Each chapter in this adaptation by P. Craig Russell is illustrated by a different luminary from the comic book world, showcasing a variety of styles from a breadth of talent. Together, they bring Neil Gaiman’s award-winning, nationally bestselling novel The Graveyard Book to new life in this gorgeously illustrated two-volume graphic novel adaptation.

Volume One contains Chapter One through the Interlude, while Volume Two includes Chapter Six to the end.

My Take On It

As someone who has never read anything by Neil Gaiman, I sprang at the opportunity to review The Graveyard Book in graphic novel form. Though Neil Gaiman didn’t compose this, his influence and ideas from the original text remain rooted in this project. I glimpsed into the creative mind of this renowned author, and this helped me resolve an important question: is Gaimain’s work truly for me or not? Though I did have a few problems with this adaptation, it is safe to say, I’m curious to explore deeper into Gaiman’s dark and whimsical imagination, and the sooner this happens, the better.

But before I get ahead of myself, let me talk about this adaption. If you’re familiar with The Graveyard Book, then you know this story is about a boy named Nobody – or Bod for short. After a madman unexpectedly kills his family one night, Bod finds himself in the care of a plethora of graveyard ghosts. Bod is a toddler when this terrible event takes place, so, as a boy of 5 or 6 years, he has no recollection of it – which is really where the story takes off. However, as Bod grows and becomes more curious about his circumstances, he realizes there is more to the outside world and his story than his ghostly family lets on. In this volume, (because this story is told in two parts), the focus remains on Bod’s adventures. His experiences usually take place within the confines of the creepy and dreamy graveyard. Though Bod travels away from the graveyard too, his adventures always connect him back to the this dark and mysterious place.

While Bod and his world are fascinating, I can’t help but feel the overall presentation of this story could’ve improved. The artwork in particular, isn’t consistent. Various illustrators collaborate to bring Gaiman’s unique vision to life, and while this is a lovely sentiment, the outcome turned out to be an unwelcome distraction. Differences in style were problematic for me. One of the most obvious examples is the change in Bod’s appearance. His facial features are delicate in the beginning, but in chapter 3, this changes; these features are enlarged and sharp-edged. Perhaps this is a turning point in the story – where the changes in appearance signify growth. But with each passing chapter, the main character does demonstrate spiritual growth, but he remains a boy throughout. So, for me, it doesn’t make sense to change his look so drastically. Maybe I’m overly critical, and I don’t know how to appreciate what’s in front of me, but regardless, my experience remains the same. I was distracted by the sudden artistic changes, and unfortunately, this discouraged me from liking the adaption more.

As for the storytelling itself, it didn’t run smoothly. There are 5 chapters in this volume, and as noted above, each chapter examines a different adventure. I felt the transitions were a bit uneven, and the gaps in between time made me think about what I was missing. I’m not sure if this is how time is represented in the book, or if in this adaptation, events were sacrificed, but these gaps exposed a weak secondary cast. Though only a select number of characters stand out, I never felt as if I truly got to know any of them. Because we’re so busy chasing after the next adventure, many residents of the graveyard are left forgotten, or they never reach their full potential. Still, with more story to come, there’s still time to get to know some of the key players on a deeper level – which will coincidentally, fill in the gaps I was referring to.

Even with the issues I encountered, I do realize I’ve only read half of the story. Everything I questioned here can easily come together in the second volume. So, I’m not worried. In fact, I’m eager to see this story to the end. And once I do, I know I’ll be looking to pick up the original afterward. Yes, to make comparisons between this version and the original, but also, to experience Neil Gaiman the right way; there’s a reason why so many readers adore him, and just by reading this adaptation, I understand a lot of it has to do with his vision of the world; it can be unforgiving but enchanting too. A great deal of wonder awaits for me. So, how can I not be excited to discover it in its purest form?