Book Review: The Golden Compass Graphic Novel, Volume 1, Stéphane Melchior-Durand (2015)

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Not really feeling the artwork…

four out of five stars

Let me preface this review by saying that I’m a huge (HUGE!) fan of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Not the World’s Biggest Fan, because that honor obviously goes to Laurie Frost (author of The Elements of His Dark Materials, an exhaustive, 560-page HDM reference book endorsed by the man himself). But big enough that I own more than a dozen non-fiction titles about the franchise, including a quiz book, and have been planning a HDM-themed menu for the Vegan Month of Food (google it!) for years. (The pressure! I want everyone to love the series as much as I do, you know?) In times of grief, I turn to certain passages from The Subtle Knife for comfort. I know I tend to throw around the word “favorite” in book reviews, but His Dark Materials is my all-time favorite book. (And yes, I count the omnibus as a single entity.) So, pretty big.

When I saw that the series would receive the graphic novel treatment, I was predictably psyched. I instantly pre-ordered a copy – but by the time it arrived, months later, life had gotten pretty chaotic. I had barely enough time to flip through it before I was forced to relinquish it to ye ole TBR pile. What I saw was not encouraging: the artwork put me off right away. Having already been burned once by the film adaptation, excitement gave way to dread.

But you know what? Now that I’ve read it, I’m actually pleasantly surprised. Granted, I’m still less than thrilled with the illustrations. Everything is hard lines and sharp angles. Lyra in particular is scrappy, and not in a good way; her hair seems to have fought a losing battle with a weed whacker, and in some panels the twelve-year-old girl looks more like a thirty-year-old smoker. (Hard living, man.)

To be fair, though, the daemons are as lovely as the humans are unattractive. The golden monkey, in particular, is just as I imagined him: gorgeous and fierce and full of hate and evil. Likewise, the cover art is simply stunning. I wish the inside was even just half as colorful and vibrant.

(More below the fold…)