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Friday, November 9, 2012

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Hope Larson & Madeleine L'Engle

Release Date: Oct. 2, 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Pages: 392
Buy: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
The world already knows Meg and Charles Wallace Murry, Calvin O'Keefe, and the three Mrs--Who, Whatsit, and Which--the memorable and wonderful characters who fight off a dark force and save our universe in the Newbery award-winning classic A WRINKLE IN TIME. But in 50 years of publication, the book has never been illustrated.  Now, Hope Larson takes the classic story to a new level with her vividly imagined interpretations of tessering and favorite characters like the Happy Medium and Aunt Beast. Perfect for old fans and winning over new ones, this graphic novel adaptation is a must-read.

I’m here today to review the recent graphic novel adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time. I must admit to not being entirely sure how to approach this review. I can’t judge it based on the usual aspects like plot and characters. These aspects are the same as they were 60 years ago. At best, I can judge the graphic novel as an adaptation, but then there’s the question of how to actually do that. Some adaptations hew so closely to the source material that they are essentially pointless while others change the source so profoundly that one wonders why they share the same name. In the end, I decided to judge this adaptation based on two questions. First, does the adaptation translate the novel into a satisfactory graphic novel, even if that means deviating from the source? Second, does it make me consider the original in a new way?

Very little is lost in translation here. For the most part, Ms. Larson does a fantastic job of packing the graphic novel with all sorts of little details, often in creative ways. For instance, during the opening chapter (the adaptation is organized into the same chapters as the original), the lines in a cloud spell the sound “wssh”. She also points out the creaking seventh step as Meg skips it while sneaking downstairs. The latter is one of many details from the original that could have easily been left by the wayside, but half of my enjoyment reading came from discovering the novel ways Larson managed to include these details.

The generally high attention to detail does make the decision to color the graphic novel in all black, white, and a shade of blue a bit puzzling. Unfortunately, the color scheme robs a few moments of much of their impact, most particularly the revelation of the Misuses’ true form and the appearance of The Man With Red Eyes. Either or both would have been the perfect places to add emphasis via color. The Man With Red Eyes would have been particularly thematically appropriate. Instead, I felt that both scenes fell a little flatter than they did when reading the original. 

Despite being a little disappointed with those two scenes, Larson did managed to make me rethink other scenes in a much more positive light. Much like her inclusion of the creaking seventh step, it’s the little details Larson includes or changes that made me rethink aspects of the original. Since I just derided the scene introducing The Man With Red Eyes, it’s only fair that I use it a positive example of one of these differences. I’d always pictured him as an inert, emotionless mouthpiece, sitting erect and emotionless in his throne as something else talked through him. Instead, Larson draws him slouched, one ankle crossed over the knee, with a bored expression. In a way, this visual made him more menacing than I’d imagined him previously. In fact, Larson’s vision of Camazotz differs greatly from the one I’d always had in my head. My version was of a world which was conquered and had no will of its own. Larson’s is of a world that’s willfully surrendered. 

I suppose this brings me back to the original two criteria. Were I to judge this graphic novel without ever reading the original, I’d consider it fantastic. Any details from the original that wouldn’t play well visually have been changed (again, see Camazotz) to have more action or movement. Impressively, these changes never sacrifice the intent of the original just to make a more interesting visual. Secondly, and most importantly, the graphic novel most definitely provided a different and welcome perspective on the original. In a way, reading the graphic novel was a lot like discussing the original book with someone: we agreed on all of the major points but still interpreted things very differently. On second thought, that might be the best description of a good adaptation.

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