Saturday, July 10, 2010

Twilight: The Graphic Novel (graphic novel, vol. 1) by Stephenie Meyer, art and adaptation by Young Kim

Synopsis:

If you've already read the book, you know what's going to happen in this graphic novel, even though you may not know exactly how it's going to happen or what details might change or get condensed. If you haven't read the book, unless you'd like a Cliff's Notes version of the original story, I suggest you start with that instead.

So, I'll just make this brief. This graphic novel adaptation covers a condensed and sometimes a little altered version of the events of Stephenie Meyer's novel Twilight, up to the point where Edward tells Bella what he is and that she smells fantastically delicious to him. They kiss, and there's the bit where she rides through the forest on his back. Yeehaw.

Commentary:

My initial reaction to this volume, when I flipped through it, was "ooh, pretty artwork." That's one thing this adaptation has over, say, the movie - the Cullens don't look like pale plastic Barbie people, they look like the inhumanly gorgeous creatures they're supposed to be. Unfortunately, the super-gorgeous character designs include Bella, who, rather than looking like an ordinary girl, has a tendency to look like a manga (or is manhwa the better word to use here?) princess - what's going to happen when the story gets to the point where Bella gets turned into a vampire and she's supposed to become inhumanly beautiful? I'm not sure it's possible to draw her more beautiful than this.

Had I been a newcomer to this series, I don't know that I would have liked this adaptation all that much. While Bella's narration can get a bit...trying...in the original novel, this graphic novel condensed things almost a little too much. The worst part is, the annoying aspects of Bella's narration are still there, so it's not like that particular weakness is overcome (it's still incredibly dramatic in an unintentionally amusing way, and Bella still doesn't "sound" like a teenage girl to me). Anyway, it's probably a good thing that I didn't read this for the story. I already knew the story, what I wanted was to see the artwork and take a look at the visuals for any scenes I remembered enjoying in either the novel or the movie.

While I, for the most part, enjoyed the artwork, with its gorgeous character designs (although I thought Jasper actually looked better than Edward), dreamy shading, and clever use of color (only a few pages in this volume have any color), there are still things about the look of this volume that I hated. For now, this is only a minor weakness, although it'll become a greater weakness if this graphic novel series ever makes it to the more Jacob-heavy parts of the series: while the first wolf depicted in this volume looked really good, the second one looked off and bothered me. A more generalized problem I had with the artwork involved characters' facial expressions. While some subtle facial expressions were well-done, other times (quite a few times actually) characters' facial expressions were so subtle that they seemed to be non-existent, at least to me. Also, is it too much to ask that not all facial expressions be subtle? It was rare for characters' facial expressions to be more pronounced or to involve their whole face. Maybe they all got Botox treatments?

All those complaints feel kind of nitpicky in comparison with my hatred of the conversation bubbles, lettering, and "trembling" lines used, although at least the "sweat drops" weren't overdone (unlike in In Odd We Trust). The conversation bubbles tended to be large, perfect, translucent things, with a scraggly little line pointing in the direction of whoever was saying the text. The lettering used throughout the entire volume was perfect, the kind of thing you'd see in a Word document. The overall effect, combined with the inhumanly lovely characters and smooth shading, was one of lots and lots of perfection. A little hand-lettering, or at least a font that would give the illusion of hand-lettering, might have broken up that perfection somewhat. The translucent conversation bubbles just annoyed me - they screamed "lookit what we can do with the computer!" more than anything else to me.

The "trembling" lines (such as when Edward is shaking from the effort of being around Bella at the beginning of the volume) had a look that was similar to the weird scraggly lines coming out of the conversation bubbles. The lines were too strong (especially when outlined in white while on a dark background), making them stand out way too much, I hated that the look screamed "we did this on the computer, after everything else had already been drawn" (making the trembling less a part of the artwork and more something like a sound effect), and there was something about them that didn't seem quite right to me. When I first saw the "trembling" lines, I had a second where I couldn't figure out what they were. That shouldn't happen. Things like these lines need to perfectly follow conventions, which will allow them to be interpreted by readers as being certain emotional cues, all without the reader ever necessarily being aware of what's going on. If you're actually seeing the lines, the way I did, and not feeling them as emotional cues, then something's not right.

I already wrote a lot about the original novel in a separate post, so I don't think I need to say too much about what I thought about the story. I still think Bella's a bit too masochistic. I think this adaptation proves that there is no way to do Meyer's "sparkling vampire" look without it seeming stupid - it was stupid in the movie, and, although it's marginally better in this graphic novel (the bit where Edward walks out into the sunlight is absolutely gorgeous and one of several instances of the book's really effective use of limited color), it's still pretty lame. In addition, because of Young Kim's style, I couldn't help but think "shojo sparklies!" when I saw the sparkles shining in Edward's hair.

If I had bought this instead of getting it via ILL, I would probably consider this a keeper for the artwork alone - despite various shortcomings, the artwork is still lovely. As far as its story goes, though, it's pretty meh. If you want the story, I'd recommend the book or even the movie over this graphic novel any day.

My read-alikes list is nearly the same as the one I wrote up for Twilight because, well, I copied and pasted most of it. Yes, I'm lazy. Especially because a complete and updated list of Twilight read-alikes would probably be at least a few dozen pages - dark (or somewhat dark) YA romances featuring supernatural heroes are everywhere you look these days. If you need more suggestions than I've listed below, let me know - I can come up with more, no problem.

Read-alikes:
  • The Awakening (book) by L. J. Smith - This is the first book in Smith's Vampire Diaries series. Elena is a beautiful, popular high school girl who is intrigued by Stefan, a brooding and mysterious newcomer who is the only one to ever resist her. Damon is Stefan's sexy and dangerous brother, who, in order to get revenge against Stefan, is willing to take Elena from him by whatever means necessary. What Elena doesn't know at first is that both Stefan and Damon are vampires - by getting closer to them, she's involving herself, her friends, and her family in their dangerous world. Those who'd like another story involving high school romance, vampires, and a vampire character the heroine can't keep her eyes off of might like this book.
  • The Initiation (book) by L. J. Smith - This is the first book in Smith's Secret Circle series, although it is no longer available on its own - the link will take you to the Amazon.com page for a volume combining the first book and half the second book (what were they thinking?!). Cassie isn't thrilled to move from sunny California to gloomy New England, but it isn't long before things get interesting for her. Her new school is practically ruled by a group of gorgeous teens who appear to be feared and/or respected by everyone around them. Cassie gradually discovers that, not only do these teens have special powers, so does she. As she gets involved with the group, she begins to fall for one of the girls' boyfriends. Those who'd like another story involving a teenage girl who's recently moved to a new town, dangerous fantasy elements, and romance might like this book.
  • Blood and Chocolate (book) by Annette Curtis Klause - Vivian is a werewolf, part of a small community of werewolves living in secret among humans. Vivian's father, the pack leader, was killed when the pack was driven out of its previous home, and all that remains is for a new leader to be chosen before the pack can move to a more permanent home. In the meantime, Vivian doesn't really feel at home with anyone in the pack. She begins dating a human, but how long will their relationship last if she tells him what she is? Even worse, people have been getting killed and Vivian can't be certain she wasn't responsible. Those who'd like another story with supernatural beings, high school-aged characters, and romance might like this book.
  • Vampire Kisses (book) by Ellen Schreiber - This is the first book in Schreiber's Vampire Kisses series. Raven, a Goth obsessed with all things dark and creepy, is in oddity in her tiny hometown. One day, a handsome teenage boy moves into town, and Raven is immediately drawn to him - like her, he's pale and dresses in dark clothing. She's sure he's a vampire, just as she's sure she wants to be his girlfriend. Those who'd like another "teen girl and her vampire boyfriend" story might like this book and series, which is aimed at a somewhat younger age group than Meyer's books (the books are much shorter, under 300 pages, and things don't get quite as dark and dangerous). In addition, this series has also been manga-fied - check out Amazon's page for the first volume here.
  • Vampire Knight (manga) by Matsuri Hino - Yuki's earliest memory is of being attacked by a vampire and then saved by another, the gorgeous and mysterious Kaname. Ten years later, Yuki, now the adopted daughter of the headmaster of Cross Academy, spends her time blushing over Kaname and protecting the Day Class students (all humans, unaware of the vampires around them) from the Night Class (all vampires). She is aided by Zero, a brooding teenager hiding a dark secret. Those who'd like another romance involving teens, vampires, and guys with conflicting desires (should they rip the heroine's throat out or kiss her? hmm...) might like this series.

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