Visuals Vs Written Narrative: Raven’s Gate
It’s been a couple of months, so I apologise. I promised you a look at the graphic novelisations made of Anthony Horowitz’ bestseller novels—the Power of Five and Alex Rider—that I shared my problems with back in May. I needed a break, what can I say?
But, this week, I got down and did it. Raven’s Gate, the graphic novel: Tony Lee’s adaptation of the prose into a comic script and Dom Rearden and Lee O’Connor on shared art duties (as far as I can tell, they each take some pages or some panels, rather than pencils vs inks). How is it as a story? How does it compare to the original in terms of shady subliminal socialisation?
Short version: I’d hand this to a kid before I’d give ’em the novel. Caveat—it may not be the guaranteed hit that the original Raven’s Gate release is touted as.
(This is a library book — excuse the quality of the “scans”!)
- When “bad characters” are present, the focus is all on body language, attitude, and words spoken—not their physical type. This is particularly notable in the court scenes with Matt’s aunt.
- Jayne Deverill’s look into the audience’s eyes conveys her as a powerful person; the look away in the next panel shows craft.
- On the next page, she appears very self-possessed. This registers naturally (the reader doesn’t need to be told), and it creates a fuller impression of a dangerous woman than is found in the prose.
- Deverill usually faces the character, showing us her expression (often leaving other characters, such as Matt, unable to view her face). Her eyes are frequently lowered; the impression is that she knows something, and that she’s decided not to tell. Her malevolence is stronger, less spiteful here.
- The scene with Claire Deverill is changed a great deal with the removal of Horowitz’s description. Contrast the above—where the birthmark is present, but unemphasised—with this excerpt from the original:
She had long white hair, a tiny head, and black eyes that could have belonged to a doll. As she turned toward him, he saw that she had been disfigured by a birthmark. One side of her face was an ugly mauve blotch. He thought back to when he was ill.
The woman seen in the page above is sure of herself, her body language is confident but reticent. The awareness of her engagement in conspiracy is present, but she seems active and scary rather than weakened and disgusting.
- Jayne Deverill’s body language is creepy, but not built into her body type—anyone could act the way she acts if they were also a child-killing cultist. She’s not isolated as physically repellent, she’s identified as behaviourally cruel.
- Much of the ableist commentary on Noah (see previous article) is removed.
- A lot of the power dynamics are visible in expressions, rather than imposed by the text.
- Professor Dravid’s character design does not appear stereotypical.
- In some panels, Jayne Deverill appears to be wearing nail polish, which seems out of character (nitpick!).
- For some reason, Matt’s adult sidekick Richard seems much stranger in this version. Particularly, his reaction to their being attacked by (magical) dogs (which are on fire) caused me pause—there just wasn’t enough of it.
- I’m not sure this version is as immediately engaging as the original. The main strength of Horowitz’ prose is that it goes as soon as you start reading, and I’m not sure that the visual pacing can match it.
- And of course, it’s easier to imagine something frightening than it is to draw it. Will the suspenseful scenes register as successfully here as they do in the originals? The only way to know is to try them.
- Some of Matt’s worse points remain, although my reading of his character is softened by the visible facial expression:
In the original novel, there’s heavy focus on physical disgust and how repulsive some characters are—especially Noah.
- Noah does not dribble, and there is no visual alternative for the “flabby” description of his lips. He looks like a man—the reader is free to register his physical attributes in any way that occur to them.
- Jayne Deverill’s careless eating is highlighted on one page
- The birthmark has been covered above; the other residents of Lesser Malling are similarly de-emphasised.
- Noah’s (a bad character) physique (“fat”) is mirrored in Tom Burgess (a good character). Fatness becomes less othered, perhaps even not inherently wrong. ~Gasp~
The Good takes it with ten!
Yup, I’d say this is a more hopeful version of the Power of Five series. I like the art, although I think it could benefit from a colourist who really knows their atmosphere. I’d recommend it for school libraries, and I’m certainly glad it’s available in the Teen section of my local public library. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there’s less connection between young readers and protagonist Matt because, while he’s a less objectionable character here, the stroppy weight-throwing is part of what makes him accessible. (That’s kind of the point, really—sometimes we like what’s bad for us.)
Try it, I’d say. I’d really like to read a version of Necropolis by this team—I wonder if that’s on the cards? Walker Books’ website is horrible to navigate, but it looks like there have only been two Power of Five graphic novelisations, with Evil Star (the second book) coming out this year. I’m in favour, on the whole, of this series. Of course, if you know any other Lovecraftian graphic novels aimed at your 12-ish year old audience . . . drop’em in the comments.
Next time I’ll be coming for Alex Rider (Antony Johnston and Kanako & Yuzuru‘s 2012 version), before Johnston’s redux with Emma Viecelli and Kate Brown later this year. Excited?
I sort of am. Both of these art teams play with the gaze and feelings of a welcomed audience—
But more on that next time.