How many trends can you cash in on with one slender book? I mean - sure, nobody'd much heard of Quirk Books before Seth Grahame-Smith audaciously armed Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy with samurai swords and rifles, and now the indie publisher is huge, able to make distribution deals with whomever they want, so who can blame 'em for trotting out as many sequels, t-shirts and ancillary works as they can? Heck, I'm surprised they haven't put out a series of branded Easy Readers.
So it is with perverse pleasure that I announce that my cynical preconceptions about this graphic novel adaptation of a mashup classic were WRONGGGG. WRONNNGG like the clock that bongs out the time in the Hotel Denouement. WRONNGGG like Bella and Edward. Like Bruce Willis and Nancy Botwin in Red (god, that actress will kiss anybody, won't she?). WRONGGG:
I can be wrong - it happens. And I might be getting a little punchy with the graphic novels. This year, in addition to reviewing graphic novels for SLJ, I am a second round panelist in the Cybils Graphic Novels category, so I have read almost all the graphic novels that are ok for kids and teens. Some that are not. I read Twilight: The Graphic Novel. I read SilverFin: The Graphic Novel. Gossip Girl: The Manga for Pete's sake. Yeeeurrgh.
And leave it to Seth Grahame-Smith and the just-getting-used-to-financial-solvency crew at Quirk to find themselves the best illustrator for the story, and to create an adaptation that streamlines it without leaving the uninitiated stranded in a carriage on the road to Meryton.
(I never liked Jane Austen. A surprising number of librarians will admit that they share this opinion, once you get a couple glasses of chardonnay into them.)
Artist Cliff Richards has done a lot of work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, and it very much shows in this book. The Bennet girls are all lovely, with big eyes and pretty mouths, and although they are predictably slender, none of them have the disproportionate boobs and butts that you'll see on some comic book women. The men fall upon a similar spectrum of handsome, except for that damp cleric that Lizzie rejects. The zombies are fabulously grotesque, yet just as distinct and correctly proportioned as the living humans.
Richards seems really comfortable with anatomy - this book is just packed with people (and zombies), and he appears equally motivated whether drawing a party scene or a zombie bloodbath. Some illustrators, you can tell, only really get excited about their work when they're drawing action. The settings are marvelous as well. Perspective and rather minimal detail outline well-composed interiors and a variety of outdoor landscapes. Richards's dark-and-light technique spotlights the relevent elements of each panel without screaming, "Look! Over here!"
Pretty clothes, fierce gorgeous teenage girls, sometimes gore-splattered, and the lurching undead. It's ok to like it!