Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel
You’d think that translating a book about odd photographs to the comic format would be a natural, given the use of images. Even the idea of children with special abilities echoes famous comic properties, like the X-Men. However, you’d be wrong about how well this would work, at least in this case. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel (story by Ransom Riggs; art by Cassandra Jean) is a misfire, a muddled, unsatisfying, charmless read.
Now, I haven’t read the the original novel, so I can’t speak to how accurate an adaptation this is, but as a graphic novel, it’s rushed and cliche-filled. Jacob’s grandfather told him stories of an odd orphanage, full of peculiar children, where the older man grew up in the 1940s. When the grandfather is killed, Jacob thinks he sees a monster, but no one believes him. The book is the story of Jacob’s journey to find the house, its inhabitants, and the truth about his grandfather.
In order to capture the depth of the prose revelations and characterizations, the graphic novel would have to be two or three times the length (because “show, don’t tell” takes many more pages). Even at almost 300, events happen rapidly, one on top of another. They come so quickly that there’s no time for emotional involvement, so the whole thing becomes an overwhelming list of “and then this happened”. In a novel, I’m sure this all has depth; in this comic, we’ve seen it before, and done in a manner better suited to the format. The pacing is all wrong, with too much space spent on events that could be omitted (since we know that Jacob’s going to find the home) and not enough on establishing the characters, which feel like cardboard, abilities instead of personalities.
The art and adaptation is by Cassandra Jean, who previously did the Beautiful Creatures graphic novel. Fundamentally, I don’t think this novel should have been adapted, since the mysteries are so much more powerful in your imagination. On the page, they’re flat and uninspiring. Or perhaps it’s just Jean’s aversion to background detail, so the cast often feels disconnected with little indication of setting.
The use of color, only in association with the peculiar inhabitants, is a nice touch, but other than being in color, there’s nothing special about how the hues or tones are used. It could have been so much more. The same goes for the illustrations — I didn’t understand some of what I was looking at until the text explained it. I think this story would have a whole ‘nother dimension if I’d read the book first, but reading this leaves me feeling left out, as though there was more I was supposed to know but wasn’t given. I suspect the best audience for this graphic novel will be book readers who are interested in the curiosity of seeing the story in another format. It’s a shame, then, that the art isn’t more impressive, either stylistically or in terms of showing what the comic format can do.
The story is also inconclusive when it comes to the major external conflict. However, there’s a sequel novel, Hollow City, due early next year. This volume has a 14-page illustrated preview of the coming book, which makes me think there will be another graphic novel adaptation late next year. (The publisher provided a review copy.)