I had a vague idea these adaptations existed, but I’d never encountered one in the wild until I read Jane Austen: Cover to Cover and went out of my way to visit a comic book store to look for one. I got lucky on my second try with Comicazi in Somerville, but they only had the one. (Hub Comics in Somerville was also great, but didn’t have any in stock.)
What truly strikes me, having finished this in one commute to and from work, is that doing a bit of research I’m not surprised I didn’t know these existed. Butler in the introduction talks about how these titles came about for Marvel Illustrated (full list of titles available under the imprint) and mentions that she said they needed to do some for young women and girls. When I did a bit of research I found that the imprint was only active from 2007-2011 and they didn’t finish Jane Austen’s novels 😦 However, I did find out there’s another imprint, Classical Comments, has WUTHERING HEIGHTS. Let me repeat this one more time, there
is a are multiple graphic novel versions of WUTHERING HEIGHTS.
I’m going to divide my response into two parts: the story line (and how it was adapted) and then the illustrations.
I write this down at the bottom and I truly mean it: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This may sound like a tangent, but stick with me for a second. One of the reasons I really love the 2005 Pride & Prejudice, yes the Kiera Knightley one, is how succinct its story line and dialogue are, especially when compared to the epic faithful 1995 BBC adaptation. Butler, the adapter for all of the Austen graphic novels, acknowledges what I can only assume the screenwriter of that 2005 version acknowledged: Austen said it best.
It was striking how similar this graphic novel read when compared to that film and when compared to the book. They boil down what Austen says to the essence and run with it. The bit of fluff Austen includes was trimmed off and the characters become that much more sassy, that much more laughable and that much more cunning.
Reading the text was different in that it came across in different ways: the normal speech and thought bubbles, the yellow guiding/identifying bubbles, letters appeared in scroll type bubbles and there was even one note written on a note as part of the comic. So much of the story, however, comes through the illustration.
From the start when I picked up the novel after finding out there was an adaptation I wasn’t sure I was going to like the style. I still have concerns about the other ones, but in this instance I can say I loved parts and wasn’t a big fan of some parts.
I wasn’t too crazy about the cover and when I saw the other covers at the end (photo that shows all five covers) I was glad I didn’t see them first. I think it was a misguided attempt to woo the younger female population (like Teen Cosmo or something – that’s a thing right?). As with most comics I felt the main characters were a bit too perfect (the women’s lips were all overly voluptuous, but I guess without huge boobs as is the usual style I can’t complain too much) and some of the rest were too much of a caricature (everyone who was foolish was also particularly fat and grotesque looking), but I guess it’s the style.
There were a few scenes I both loved and hated, mostly the high-tension scenes. Honestly, you could cut the panel out and put it into any super hero comic book and it would probably fit: the super close up on the eyes, the lines in the space behind the character, the intense stare or sweat streaks. This isn’t one of those (to the right), but it was a great use of the illustrated format to show some mad side-eye!
The other scenes that I particularly enjoyed were again highly emotional but with multiple people in them. The scene where Lizzie finds out what Lydia has done and Darcy is leaving was heartbreaking. It was so well drawn and you see Lizzie in the background as Darcy leaves, through his arm so she’s there but she’s fading and just seems so small and insignificant.
Recommendation: Let’s put it this way, even before I finished reading it I’d already put in an order for the Marvel Illustrated versions of Emma, Sense & Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey. It was surprisingly enjoyable and I feel like these will be great for when I want a quick Austen fix!
Opening Line: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” (If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Am I right?)
Closing Line: “The Darcys remained on the most intimate terms with the Gardiners, both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude toward the persons who, by bringing Lizzy to Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers.)