Great Expectations

Great Expectations cover

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.

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.

Great Expectations cover

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.

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.)

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