The Graveyard Book Vol. 1 (Harper)

CREDIT: Harper

Rating: 5/5 – A Magical Graphic Adaptation of Gamain’s Award Winning Novel.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

This graphic adaptation is equally suited for people who have read Neil Gaiman’s prose version or who are experiencing it here as a graphic novel for the first time.  I read the prose edition when it first came out in 2008, and one of the chapters “The Witch’s Headstone” was first published the year prior to that in Gaiman’s all-ages “M is for Magic” anthology.  The Graveyard Book is the tale of Nobody Owens (aka Bod) who is raised by an assortment of supernatural guardians, primarily ghosts, in a local graveyard after the murder of his parents by “the man Jack”.

When you’re dealing with core material that is of the quality of Neil Gaiman’s Hugo and Locus award winning novel it’s a really touchy thing.  There would seem to be a lot of downside for the adaptation to not hold up to the prose, kind of like how people will often say that a movie is not as good as the book it was based on.  This is happily not the case here, P. Craig Russell has done a stellar job of selecting an art team with styles that are similar enough in tone to make the whole work hold together, but each is different enough that it gives every chapter a charm all it’s own.  Why all the different artists?  Russell said in an interview that it would have taken him years to get the book out if he illustrated it all, but by doing the overall design and illustrating a chapter here & there he was able to get the book out in a much more timely fashion.

Each chapter of the book is a standalone story focusing on Bod as he grows up, each chapter being spaced 2 years after the previous one.  The nature of the storytelling and the temporal difference from each chapter to the next melds perfectly with the various art styles.  Kevin Nowlan takes Chapter 1 as the infant Bod is adopted by the inhabitants of the graveyard.  Chapter 2 is done by P. Craig Russell himself as Bod finds a friend.  Chapter 3 is by Tony Harris (illustrating the real world) and Scott Hampton handling art on the other side of the Ghoul-Gate (and this transition works surprisingly well).  Chapter 4 is the story of the Witch’s Headstone, illustrated by Galen Showman (and my favorite chapter of the book).  Jill Thompson brings us Chapter 5 which is the story of the Danse Macabre and we finish with a short interlude by Stephen B. Scott setting up the action for the second half that will be out on September 30th covering Chapter 6 through the end of the book.

Gaiman’s prose is wonderfully brought to life by P. Craig Russell and the cast of other artists.  While each Chapter stands on it’s own, there is a clear through story that beautifully captures Bod’s growth, education, and maturation as he travels through his life in the graveyard.  It’s certainly an unusual way to grow up but at the same time it felt relatable and that’s part of the magic Gaiman is able to weave as a master storyteller.  Whether you’ve read the story before or not, you owe it to yourself to sample this visual adaptation of Gaiman’s enchanting story.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough and it will be challenging to wait another 2 months to read the second half.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
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