Monster: A Graphic Novel Adaptation of a Jonathan Kellerman Novel
I hadn’t realized this series was continuing. Five years ago, the first Jonathan Kellerman graphic novel adaptation, Silent Partner, was published. It was based on the fourth in his Alex Delaware book series about a psychologist who solves murders.
In 2014, The Web came out, jumping ahead to the 10th book. Since it’s set on a restricted island, one might assume that it was chosen for the visual possibilities, but given the density of the work, most of the panels consist of head shots as people talk to each other.
Plus, artist Michael Gaydos (illustrator of all three books, which are all adapted by Ande Parks) has a style heavy in blacks, which suits the violence and heaviness of a murder mystery, but doesn’t lend itself to stunning vistas. There is one impressive scuba diving underwater panel, but most of the art could have taken place in any number of interchangeable rooms. It was a better choice for the claustrophobic, multiple-identity story of the first book.
Monster: The Graphic Novel, the new release, jumps ahead again, to the 13th book, which was originally published in 1999. That means, among other things, paper receipts and newspaper archives instead of electronic records, landline phone calls, fashions we’d now laugh at…
The monster of the title is one of several serial killers, kept in an asylum for those who’ve done terrible things and aren’t mentally responsible. One of the doctors from the asylum has been found dead in her car trunk with her eyes mutilated. Alex and his detective friend Milo suspect a connection with a similar murder eight months earlier, that of a struggling actor.
The prose has a particular flavor, with numerous captions, that I assume is taken from the novel. That makes this less than a success in the comic format, since the book can be read just through the text, only glancing at the pictures to see who’s talking. There isn’t a strong integration between the two. Sometimes I was glad of that, when some of the most grotesque crimes were being described. There, having a hard time figuring out the details of the images was a benefit.
The best audience for this book are those who have a morbid fascination with serial killers. I felt the book was putting a freak show on display without much other reason for it. There’s no sense of understanding; instead, the rationale is that some people are crazy and sometimes do terrible things. It’s wallowing in the disgusting.
A key question of the mystery is why the victim was so odd and what her motivations were for living in solitude, but I found the explanation provided less than believable. Similarly, it’s best if you are familiar with the character of Alex Delaware through another source, since he isn’t significantly developed or delved into here. Then again, I’m not sure those new to the series (either version) would start with this volume.
I’m not sure whether those who have enjoyed the novels need a comic version, especially one that isn’t particularly visually exciting. Perhaps those fans will find the graphic novel format a curiosity, something different for a story they already know. There are another 18 Delaware novels, which means a good chance at another adaptation in the future. (The publisher provided a review copy.)