Friday, August 16, 2013

Campfire celebrates 200 years of Miss Bennett and Mr. Darcy

  Let's just get this out of the way now- not everyone likes graphic novels, especially when it comes to looking at them as literature and especially when it comes to adapting literary classics. Got it. Understood. Now on to the review...
  Jane Austen wrote Pride & Prejudice 200 years ago. Because of this book, and Austen's other works, her stories and characters have been enjoyed by fans for generations. It has been remade into about every form of media out there, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out there are board games or PC games that encompass Austen's stories.
 With the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice , Campfire chose an ideal time to release this graphic novel. The job of adapting the book into a script was handled by Laurence Sach. From my quick Google-search investigation, this appears to be his first comic work. The art was done by Rajesh Nagulkonda, a regular illustrator at Campfire whose prior credits include Alice in Wonderland, Oliver  Twist, Krishna, The Time Machine and Romeo and Juliet- just to name a few. There are three colorists credited to this book- Nagulakonda, Vijay Sharma and Dilip Walia. I was a little surprised by this as I didn't consider the coloring in this book to be one of it's better features. But what was most surprising- and may best explain any shortcomings the book has- is the fact that FIVE people are credited as editors. Seriously, five different minds all trying to give direction to this story?!
  I must admit, I have never read Jane Austen. As I dove into reading the story I found a world of people dependent not on hard work or great ideas to get by in the world, but rather people depending on luck and manners to escape the unspoken caste system they are in. Apparently, who you knew was more important than what you did (in one scene, some women belittle Lizzie because she has a lawyer in her family. Okay, insert your lawyer joke here. Go ahead, I'll wait.), and those of fortune determined, sometimes on a whim, who would rise and fall among the various social strata they controlled. What makes the story compelling, then, is Mr. Darcy's counter-culture approach to things. Certainly people can tell Mr. Darcy is well off given his appearance, his home and his friends, yet he does not rub this into the faces of those "beneath" him. Darcy actually treats all people with humility and respect, but he is exceedingly quiet and not at all self-seeking. The few times he does speak up he does without tact- probably because he is not the "social butterfly" that his friends and acquaintances are.
 On the other side of the coin, there is Lizzie. She is one of five daughters to an over-anxious mother who wants her children to marry into wealthy families, while her father seems to be far less anxious and weighs people's character and motives more than their income or social standing. Lizzie is smart, with a sharp wit and no feeling of inferiority to anyone. Her concern is not marriage for the sake of financial security, but rather love. Darcy and Lizzie get off to a less than ideal start, yet begin to be attracted to each other without knowing the other person's feelings. Darcy must overcome the obstacles his friends put in his way while Lizzie must discover the truth behind the stories she has heard about Darcy.
If this is indeed Laurence Sach's first writing for comics he has done a very good job of delivering an entertaining story that would seem to mimic, if not repeat, the dialogue from the book. Nagulakonda has done a serviceable job at the least and a well laid-out story at the best. Early on I had a hard time distinguishing some characters from others, making the conversations a little confusing. But as the story picks up and the characters narrow down, the storytelling becomes fluid and clear and even impactful at times, like when Mr. Darcy surprises Lizzie, riding his horse in a pose similar the painting of Napoleon crossing the Alps.
I'm Napoleon! D'oh! I mean Darcy!
 If the writing and the main art are good, then the coloring leaves me scratching my head. For three colorists and five editors to pick a color palette from an Easter egg just gives the story an artificial look to it. Colors look too washed out and bright and the lush greens of the outdoors lack a visual pop. When the story moves indoors, there are a few times when the crew (that covers everyone- colorists and editors) gets it right, providing warm colors against shadows creating a cozy indoor feel to the scenes.
The warm colors captured in this scene make these some of the best looking pages in the book.
 Is the 104 page book worth the $16.99 price point? For those who don't go for superheroes in their graphic novels I think this book will be very compelling. People who have always meant to read the book but just couldn't find the time will enjoy this edition that provides a good story with far more depth than a Cliffs Notes booklet. Hopefully, as stated in the company's mission, this book will serve as a doorway to encourage readers to seek out the original book. Pride and Prejudice hits shelves October 29.

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