Beautiful Creatures: The Manga
I had heard of Beautiful Creatures as a movie, a gender-swapped attempt to cash in on the Twilight audience with a paranormal romance based on a popular novel series. I wasn’t likely to either read or see it, so a comic version seemed a great way for me to sample the story.
Ethan is stuck in a small Southern town. He’s pretending not to be as smart or bored as he is, biding time until he can leave. Then Lena arrives. She’s the girl he’s been dreaming of — literally. She doesn’t fit in: she’s goth-looking, she reads, she writes, and she’s the niece of the crazy old shut-in.
When they get together, they have Civil War flashbacks, visions of themselves back then. They can read each other’s minds, and soon enough, Ethan is meeting her family of “casters”. (They don’t like the term “witches”.) In just a few months, Lena will be “claimed” for either the dark or light side, and the rest of the clan is fighting over which it might be for her.
The book is full of twists as Ethan and Lena tries to figure out what’s going on, accompanied by the reader. There’s a lot of material and characters shoved in here, which means not everything gets the focus it needs. Teens, particularly, will appreciate the drama as a pair of star-crossed lovers strive to stay together in spite of fate and family trying to drive them apart.
The Yen adaptation (written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl; adapted and illustrated by Cassandra Jean) is impressive and substantial, with hardcover binding, a lovely foil dust jacket design, and opening color pages. The character designs are well-done, with the teenagers attractive and expressive. The captions, which I’m assuming are taken from the books, are evocative, if a bit abrupt in telling key points of the story. Typical of an adaptation, the subtler elements will only be noticed by those who already know the story from the books; new readers may find things proceeding at a fast pace, with little time or space to reflect on the emotional impact points. I liked the Southern atmosphere, but too many revelations seemed thrown at me, and I was more interested in the family dynamics than the magical battles, which took precedence.
Review done, gripe time now. Even thought the subtitle says “Manga”, I put this review under the graphic novel category, because that’s where I think American-made comic adaptations of novels belong. “Manga”, for me, only refers to those books created in Japan. When Yen brought out their Twilight adaptation, they subtitled it “The Graphic Novel”, so I’m not sure why this one is tagged “The Manga”. (The publisher provided a review copy.)