My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book. Oh this glorious, and gorgeous, and breath-taking book.
Based on the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, this graphic novel adaptation by Gareth Hinds. is stunning. I’ve not read the original poem so cannot comment on the translation of the narrative, or its adherence to the original. What I can comment on is the savage beauty of some of these frames.
I’m a fan of Hinds. I adored his version of the Odyssey – visually it was stunning but stumbled in the lettering department. If it weren’t for the lettering, that book would be perfect for me. To be frank, even with the lettering, it’s not far off. I was therefore fascinated to see what he did with Beowulf.
It’s darker. Harder. Braver, almost, with how it mutates form and frame and narrative to suit the moment. And oh there are some stunning moments. I was particularly in love with how Hinds managed the battles. There’s several long pages without dialogue. The framing device of the poem is abandoned. All we have is the visual; the stark, bloody, superhuman violence of a battle. It’s amazing. I commented on Twitter that this book bordered on audible. You can hear these fights. You can hear the grunts and the punches and the wheezing gasps for air. These aren’t theatrical fights. They feel real. This book feels so very real.
And I love his style throughout. The characters are drawn in an almost wood-cut effect. It feels almost grainy, like looking at sepia tinged film. There’s also an interesting allusion to the Bayeux Tapestry in the way some of these scenes are staged. This is bold, historic and viscerally visual storytelling that is, to be frank, epic.
This is what I feel a graphic novel adaptation of a classic should be. Don’t dumb it down. Don’t force the story to fit a context that it doesn’t. Don’t force your art to be something it isn’t. Hinds has gone right to the heart of this book – his book – and produced something really rather outstanding.