COMIC REVIEW: THE GRAVEYARD BOOK - VOL. 1 / AUTHOR: NEIL GAIMAN, P. CRAIG RUSSELL / ARTIST: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: BLOOMSBURY / RELEASE DATE: JULY 31ST
Nobody Owens grows up in a graveyard full of ghosts, ghouls, a witch, a werewolf and a very tall man, neither alive nor dead, in a very long black cloak. The Graveyard Book is classic Neil Gaiman, all right. Originally released as a young adult’s novel in 2008, this fantastic fable returns to bookshelves this summer in the form of a two-part graphic novel, adapted by P. Craig Russell and illustrated by a number of artists, each in their own distinctive styles.
After almost an entire family is murdered by a mysterious figure known as Jack, the surviving toddler pegs it to a derelict graveyard where he is taken in by the ghostly inhabitants. This first volume sees Nobody (Bod for short) growing up in this weird and wonderful world and going on a series of adventures. He finds ancient treasure in the tomb of a Celtic warrior; he becomes the captive of ghouls on a trip to Hell and back; he goes on a quest to find a headstone for an unjustly murdered witch and he dances the danse-macabre. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Jack is on the hunt for his escaped victim.
Gaiman is one of the most acclaimed writers working in fantasy today and it’s not hard to see why. Masterfully weaving together influences from history, myth and fantasy, his stories capture a childishly adventurous spirit – spooky but not terrifying and dark but not gory. His dialogue is poetic, evocative, and even when coming from the weirdest of characters, it has a truthfulness of emotion that keeps the reader absorbed. While lacking the complexity present in Gaiman’s more adult work, these stories are light, addictive reading and will leave the reader itching for volume two.
With an expert knowledge of the format, Russell has done a masterful job with the adaptation, remaining faithful to Gaiman’s prose and yet always finding the perfect way to cut it down and foreground the visuals. All the artists turn beautiful words into haunting imagery, bringing to life the winding paths, cracked tombstones, and gothic crypts of the graveyard, as well as its assortment of inhabitants. If there’s one weak link, it’s that Tony Harris’ artwork on chapter three feels out of sync with the others; the overly bold inks jar the subtle tones found throughout the rest of the book.
All in all, this is an excellent volume for young and old adults alike, whether you’re entirely new to the story or a Gaiman devotee who’s read the novel over and over again. Simultaneously a childish adventure, a fantastic fairytale and a haunting horror; The Graveyard Book will make you think twice about what lies beyond the fences of that old cemetery down the road.