Friday February 15, 2013
WORLDS OF WONDER
Review by TASHNY SUKUMARAN
A timeless young adult fantasy tale gets the graphic novel treatment, with slightly mixed results.
A Wrinkle In Time: The Graphic Novel
Author: Madeleine LíEngle
Adapted and illustrated by: Hope Larson
Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux, 392 pages
IT is always tricky to do an adaptation of a well-loved classic, be it for film or stage or, well, comic books. In the case of A Wrinkle In Time: The Graphic Novel, illustrator Hope Larson plays it safe, sticking closely to author Madeleine LíEngleís original plot, right down to the dialogue.
The first book in the Time Quintet series, this classic sci-fi fantasy tale opens on a dark and stormy night (no, really) in the vulnerable yet strong-headed Meg Murryís attic room. Weíre introduced to her strange family Ė her beautiful scientist mother, and her athletic twin brothers Sandy and Dennys, and genius five-year-old brother Charles Wallace Murry.
As the story unfolds, we see Charles and Meg on a quest to find their missing father with the help of Megís gifted schoolmate Calvin OíKeefe and the mysterious Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which. The group must also defeat an evil known only as ďITĒ, a being that Megís father was trying to defeat before he disappeared.
An exquisite, moving mix of philosophy, friendship, love, religion and the battle between good and evil, A Wrinkle In Time is, well, timeless. Larsonís art does well in bringing the book to life visually, but her refined quiet style isnít much to shout about especially when paired with an epic story like this, and even borders on being awkwardly cartoon-y at times. She gives Meg, Charles, and the rest of the human cast distinct features and facial markers; but falls short when depicting some of the more complex ideas and characters. Although her art has an understated, quiet grace, it somehow doesnít quite fit this swooping and gently grand story.
I particularly enjoyed her interpretation of Charles though Ė his slightly over-large eyes lend him an alien nature that verges on the slightly creepy. The awkward and gangly Meg is also drawn with so much care that you canít help but feel Larson knows exactly what itís like to be unpopular and unattractive in that most wretched hive of scum and villainy: secondary school.
Larsonís art is charming and delicate, but somehow just doesnít nail the story, lacking an unnameable quality thatís close in nature to magic. Sometimes it even seems awkward Ė Larson reduces the bond of friendship and love that was so carefully crafted by LíEngle in the novel to a mere few lines of dialogue (though perhaps the nature of the medium is more to blame here). That said, itís always better to underdress than overdress; and thatís exactly what Larson has done.
Credit to her, though, for not deviating much from LíEngleís original story or dialogue. However, because we miss out on the more detailed characterisation and other little nuances, the story seems to go by a little too quickly. One minute weíre dealing with utterly human problems on Earth, and the next, the characters are zipping through time and space and meeting all manner of strange personalities and creatures in a battle for the universe itself.
The Herculean effort Larson has put into visually representing abstract concepts (A Wrinkle In Time was written when LíEngle was reading about quantum physics) doesnít go to waste, as her simple style makes it easier to understand the story. However, I think that fans of the book would appreciate this adaptation far more than a first-time reader due to the slower pacing and breathtaking heartbreak LíEngleís prose conveys.
Itís not better and itís certainly not more beautiful Ė but itís painstakingly executed and reads like a respectful tribute to the original novel rather than a re-telling.
A Wrinkle In Time: The Graphic Novel is available at Kinokuniya Suria KLCC.