Review: The Golden Compass: The Graphic Novel Volume 1

The Golden Compass: The Graphic Novel Volume 1

Written by Philip Pullman
Adapted by Stéphane Melchior
Art by Clément Oubrerie
Coloring by Clément Oubrerie and Philippe Bruno
Translated by Annie Eaton
Published by Alfred A. Knopf Books For Young Readers
September 22, 2015

The last couple of months have been excellent for fans of the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. As I previously wrote in a Books That Shaped Me article here on WWAC, Pullman’s magnum opus is one of my all-time favorite stories. Recently, it was announced that the books are going to be adapted into a miniseries by BBC One. Back in late September, the first volume of The Golden Compass: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 was released in English. And here’s to keeping our fingers crossed that Pullman finally finishes The Book of Dust sooner rather than later.

My mum bought me a paperback copy of The Golden Compass: The Graphic Novel, volume 1, for my birthday. I’ve been excited to read it after hearing about the original French language version published by Gallimard Jeunesse last year. At one point, I was tempted to buy the original version, but my French skills are not up to scratch. So, when I heard that it would be released in English, I was ecstatic.

I have to say that the first thing I noticed outright as I started the comic was that Lyra’s hair is depicted as brown and not blond in this adaptation. Now, this isn’t really all that important, but as an adamant fan, this irked me a little bit. Whenever I read a story, I create images in my mind of what the characters look like, and I definitely had a specific picture in my mind for Lyra.

Other than the hair color being incorrect, the comic got her overall uncultivated and untidy look perfect. The inking, which appears to have been done with a pen dipped in ink, is not smooth and perfect, but more spontaneous with lots of hatching to create shadow and depth. Lyra’s hair and clothing look wild and untamed, just as I imagined her, and the artists did well at showing facial expressions and movement.

It was especially exciting for me to see how other people imagine the parallel universe in which Lyra was born. I’ve always imagined it as a steampunk-fantasy world set in Oxford, filled with zeppelins, balloon-operating aëronauts, and bottles of tokay alongside witches, dæmons, and cliff-ghasts. And the comic definitely depicts these interesting objects, people, and settings just as I would have imagined them.

If you’ve never read the original story, the comic book may be a little bit confusing. Each scene is only shown in about two to three pages. It sets the stage well as to the personality of each character presented, but perhaps I feel this way because I’ve read the books. There are scenes that seem to be inserted into the comic in order to explain the overall setting and situation, but some of these scenes end abruptly.

For example, in order to explain the gobblers, who are one of the main group of antagonists in The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman wrote about a boy named Tony Makarios being kidnapped. In the comic book, this scene takes place in about two pages, and at the end, Tony’s dæmon is shown being snatched up by Mrs. Coulter’s golden monkey dæmon. However, it doesn’t really show Tony being kidnapped, just him running after his dæmon yelling, “No! That’s my dæmon!” So it’s unclear if the gobblers actually captured him, who or what the golden monkey is, and why this is really important to the story.

So, if you’ve never read the original books, I highly recommend them. They will make reading the comic that much easier. But, if you’ve read the books and are a fan like me, then the comic is a great additional to your His Dark Materials collection.

Not surprisingly, the story ends about one third of the way through The Golden Compass, and unfortunately, English language readers will have to wait until September 2016 for volume 2 and September 2017 for volume 3. But, perhaps the new BBC One miniseries can hold us fans over, in the meantime.

Rine Karr

Rine Karr

Rine Karr is the former Chief Copy Editor and an occasional contributor at Women Write About Comics. Rine is a writer and aspiring novelist by moonlight and a copy editor by daylight. Rine loves good food, travel, and lots of fiction, especially novels, anime, manga, video games, and films. Rine is also an Anime Writer at Girls in Capes.

One thought on “Review: The Golden Compass: The Graphic Novel Volume 1

  1. The brown hair was that checked me out of excitement for this book, to tell the truth. If it SAYS what somebody looks like, they should LOOK LIKE THAT. Unless there’s a point to the change, with impact and additional layers. What does brown hair change about Lyra? Now she’s that much more similar to other spunky child-heroines, and not a subversion of blonde-is-prim. A dulling effect.

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