Monday, November 01, 2004

Quick GN Reviews

The Metamorphosis
adapted by Peter Kuper
Of all possible prose tales to adapt to comics form, Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" would seem to be one of those that would resist effective adaptation. The central conceit of the tale, a salesman awakens one morning to find that he has been transformed into a cockroach, is one that can really only work in the mind's eye, where the cockroach in question can exist as a vaguely defined image. By adapting the story into a visual form, the artist is forced to make concrete decisions about the size of the roach and the appearance. Despite this inherent difficulty, Kuper--being one of the few artists who could reasonably even attempt such an adaptation, makes a good go. His style is perfectly suited to a tale that is both provincial and surreal, and he does an excelent job of incorporating the typographical prose elements into the graphic narrative. It's no substitute for reading the original, but if you need a quick retelling of the tale, or just want to see what Kuper does with it, it's worthwhile.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Hard Time: 50 to Life
by Steve Gerber & Brian Hurtt
Fifteen-year-old Ethan Chiles got involved in a Columbine-like school shooting, and even though the only person he killed was his co-assailant, he gets the entire blame and ends up having to serve 50-to-life in a maximum security prison. Normally 'young meat' like Ethan wouldn't stand a chance, especially since he has a smart mouth that he can't always control. But Ethan is developing supernatural abilities, although at this point he is only vaguely aware that they exist, and they operate on a subconscious level. His abilities manifest as a sort of spectral/astral projection which can interact violently with his surroundings. Many things make this comic work: Grant provides us with a compelling setting and a variety of characters who, while being standard prison stock characters, have well-defined personalities. As the protagonist, Ethan is obviously guilty, but his punishment is more than his role in the crime deserves, and he's smart and resourceful beyond just his supernatural abolities. Hurtt's artwork is very strong, bringing the characters and the prison to life. Brian Haberlin's colors are of the monochromatic style that's common in many Vertigo books these days; I normally find it annoying, but by using the dull pallate for the prison while bringing in a bright red when Ethan's supernatural abiliteis assert themselves it manages to be quite effective. As part of DC's ill-fated Focus line, Hard Time was lucky to make it to a trade collection; here's hoping that this initial collection is successful enough to warrent more.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

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