So, did you know that The Golden Compass was being adapted as a series of graphic novels? Because I didn’t until I happened to hear about it at Book Expo America.
I was super excited to get my hands on the advanced reader copy and was surprised that more people weren’t making a big deal about it, because His Dark Materials remains popular and is one of the most complex and interesting speculative fiction books for young adults out there.
The graphic novel has been adapted and illustrated by Stephanie Melchoir-Durand and Clement Oubrerie and I finally got around to reading volume one of the series the other night. Volume one starts (obviously) at the beginning of the novel and covers maybe a third of the contents (the second volume comes out in September 2016 and the third, September 2017). So, it’s pretty short; I read it in about a half an hour. I would have preferred if the whole story had been kept in tact. I always felt that The Golden Compass was fairly action packed and as a graphic novel that action goes by even faster, so it seemed almost too short for me.
I also felt that some of the depth of the plot and of Lyra’s character was missing in this version. Perhaps this is because almost everything is dialogue and we have to rely on the pictures to take the place of all of Pullman’s rich description found in the novel. But maybe I’m just biased because I read the novels first.
The pictures themselves are a mix of sketchy and cartoony with lots of hatching. I think the style works especially well for depicting creepy characters and situations (though sometimes it adds a bit of a creep factor to characters that aren’t supposed to be creepy). All the art is in colour, which captures a lot of the mood and works well for the subject matter (I mean, you’ve got daemons changing shape, and dinner party scenes, and the villainous golden monkey – it only makes sense to have it in colour).
I’m not quite as sold on this graphic novel as I have been on others, but I’m not calling it quits yet. I think Pullman’s work has a lot of potential for adaptation – I was excited for the film adaptation of The Golden Compass too and it fell short of being a big success – I just think there’s so much to love about the novel that it’s hard to fit everything into other formats. So I think I’m just going to remain hopeful that the remaining volumes will take it up a notch. After all, there’s still depictions of armoured bears to look forward to.
Final verdict: Reading this was like smelling dinner. It got me interested and build up my appetite, but it wasn’t enough to fill my hunger. I’ll have to wait for the other volumes to make a real decision on this one. For now, go pick it up if you are as intrigued as I was, but know you’ll have to be really open to adaptation to enjoy it.