Great Expectations

Classics Illustrated relaunched with Rick Geary’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Previously published in 1990, this short reprint hits the high notes of the story of orphan Pip growing up to become a gentleman.

Great Expectations cover
Great Expectations
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I find illustrations very handy in understanding the context of a classic set in another time and place, and Geary doesn’t disappoint. His unique faces are well-suited to a story with so much conversation, since the cast can be instantly distinguished, and he shows their character on their faces. Of course, a 56-page graphic novel can’t capture all the depth and detail of Dickens’ book, but it’s fascinating seeing these outrageous characters brought to life in art: the frightening spinster Miss Havisham, the gentle blacksmith Joe, the escaped convict, Pip’s cruel sister who raised him, and of course the lovely and heartless Estella, raised to be an unfeeling object of desire.

The unusual life changes are also more plausible, seen on the page, although they can be quite sudden. Under it all, though, Pip’s confusion and feeling of not fitting in, wherever he goes, comes through the panels, as do the motivations of the other players. It’s dense with events and emotions, and the key messages come through. The well-off may not be the most noblest of people, and those we’re supposed to despise may be the truest of heart. Inner worth can’t be determined by social status.

The revelations and coincidences come fast, as hidden pasts are revealed and previously unexpected connections show themselves. It’s an involving read, even beyond its literary pedigree. You won’t get the Dickens style or the eloquent language, but it’s a great introduction. Simplifying the material makes this particularly well-suited for a younger audience. Plus, the hardcover binding will stand up to rereading.

Sample pages are available at the publisher’s website. Rick Geary also wrote and drew the Treasury of Victorian Murder series. The other Classics Illustrated relaunch was The Wind in the Willows, which kicked off the Deluxe line. The Deluxe Classics Illustrated books are available in either hardcover or paperback (the regular line is hardcover only) at almost triple the length. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)


3 Responses to “Great Expectations”

  1. Good Comics for Kids » Linkfest: Reviews ‘n’ stuff Says:

    [...] At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson joins the chorus of positive reviews for the Classics Illustrated edition of Great Expectations. [...]

  2. The Lindbergh Child » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Geary has been interviewed online. You may also want to check out Geary’s adaptation of Great Expectations or Finder: The Rescuers, a science-fictionalized takeoff from the starting point of a baby’s [...]

  3. ali bailey Says:

    Found out that in the UK (and OZ I think) the whole range of CI is being republished. They have digitally sharpened up the old artwork, and re-coloured. So, I thought hey – my kids are into modern graphics, they’ll laugh at these. No so!! all of them loved the books. From a 6yr old devouring the Classics Illustrated Junior, to a 12yr old whizzing through War of the Worlds.
    Retro maybe, but if they work for a new generation, brilliant. I’m REALLY looking forward to them ‘doing’ GE and WITW over here too.

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