- Posted by Johanna on May 3, 2010 at 9:31 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: written by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith; adapted by Tony Lee; art by Cliff Richards
- PUBLISHER: Del Rey; $14.99 US
Once you start doing mashups in literature, it makes sense to consider transforming them into graphic novels, because zombies are most fun when you can actually *see* them dressed in Regency clothes. And heck, you’ve already given up on faithfulness to the original material, instead choosing imagination and genre conventions, so why not go crazy?
It’s an odd reversal of the usual assembly-line process to have three writers — the original, Jane Austen; the transformer into parody novel, Seth Grahame-Smith; and the comic adapter, Tony Lee — and only one artist, Cliff Richards, best known for his work on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics. That’s an amazingly apt choice, since the girls here are very similar fighters, wielding blades against monsters and defending their community. Tony Lee, meanwhile, has plenty of adaptation experience with credits on comics including versions of Robin Hood, Doctor Who, and Starship Troopers.
I’m familiar with the original story, of course, but I didn’t read the pastiche. (Here’s a comparison from someone who did.) I don’t think it’s necessary; in fact, this graphic novel is probably more entertaining if some surprises are left. It opens with the parent Bennets at home — the mother is, as expected, pondering the suitability of noblemen new to the neighborhood as husbands for her daughters, but dad is much more proactive than in the book. He’s cleaning his musket and worrying about defending his estate from the “strange plague” and “unfortunate scourge” that’s been bedeviling the neighborhood lately. Instead of brides, he wants his children to be warriors, although he thinks all of them but Lizzy are “silly and ignorant like their mother”. (He’s not particularly charming.)
Note that the book was reproduced from pencils in black and white. (There are some sample pages here.) Foreground items are thickly outlined to draw attention to them, but some of the background details fade away into grey. Perhaps that was the intended effect, but if I can’t tell the difference between that and poor reproduction, it’s not as successful as one would hope — although the individual figures are lovely. I’m told it’s the hip thing to be more transparent about process, which means including things like construction lines in the art, but to me, it still looks unfinished. I wanted color pages, darn it!
That might also have made it easier to tell some of the characters apart, especially the women. I found the mix here too heavily weighted towards the zombie half, with much more fighting than socializing. Within the first ten pages, I was already tired of the sisters claiming that they were dedicated to the “deadly arts” before romance, unlike those other silly women they met. Methinks that the creator boys involved didn’t really get the appeal of the original novel and were trying to remedy it in a ham-handed way by making the girls tough fighting chicks who are outright rude in their behavior and disavow their sex. I also don’t believe that women in that era wore gartered stockings.
Not much of the original novel remains, beyond the characters. All the talk is of fighting and “unmentionables” (which means zombies, not underwear) — this is a book much more for the traditional comic market zombie fan than the romance reader looking for something a little different. The ninjas are just overkill. (The publisher provided a review copy.)
Update: Andrew Wheeler says much the same things in his review.