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 20, 2016
Another year has passed, and that means the release of another volume of The Golden Compass: The Graphic Novel. This new volume was actually released back on June 11, 2015 by Gallimard in French–its original language of publication–however, if you’re like me and your French isn’t up to par, then you had to wait an entire year from the release of the first volume for the next part in this epic saga originally written by Philip Pullman.
When we last saw Lyra, she was traveling with the Gyptians to the Arctic to save the missing children who were kidnapped by the Gobblers. Last volume, we met a number of characters, including Lord Asriel, Mrs. Coulter, the scholars of Jordan College, and the Gyptians. This volume, we finally get to meet Iorek Byrnison and the Lapland witches.
The witch queen Serafina Pekkala, one of my favorite characters, has an appearance flying on her cloud-pine broomstick, making this a perfect October and Halloween read. Her dæmon Kaisa, a large grey goose who has the ability to travel miles and miles away from her witch rather than only a few feet like an ordinary human, also helps Lyra out later in this volume.
As I said in my review of the first volume, the spontaneous, almost childlike inking and watercolor paint really make this story come to life. I especially liked the scenes with Lyra and Iorek Byrnison. When Lyra first meets Iorek in an Arctic port town on her way to the north, you can almost smell the stench of booze, blood, and dirty bear from the way the scene is inked and colored.
Iorek roaring in Lyra’s face feels so visceral, and even though Iorek is a polar bear—not really an ordinary polar bear, but a sentient, speaking panserbjørn or armored bear—you can really understand his personality from the way he was drawn. He has facial expressions, although I got a lot more from his body language than from his face, and his personality is especially apparent in a later scene in which he tells Lyra about how panserbjørn cannot be tricked.
I still think that if you’ve never read the original story, the comic book may be a little bit confusing. Fortunately, there’s a one-page synopsis with pictures of the main characters at the beginning of this volume, and overall, the flow felt tighter than it did in the first volume. The transitions were less abrupt, with groups of panels that belong to the same scene having the same background color, which helped to delineate one scene from another.
When Farder Coram tells Lyra about how he met Serafina Pekkala when he was a young man, for example, the background color shifts from dark blue in the present moment to yellow in the flashback. This sort of transitional color scheme definitely exists in the first volume, and yet, tighter writing also helped to make the transitions in volume two clearer. There’s less explanation of the world and its workings and more showing Lyra’s adventures.
The story ends about two thirds of the way through the novel, and given the fact that there is a third volume coming out in English next year, this was not a surprise. At first, however, I thought it ended in the same place as the decent, but U.S. box office flop, 2007 film adaptation by Chris Weitz, but then I remembered that Lyra had yet to get Iorek back his throne from Iofur Raknison. Instead, it ends with Lyra and Roger flying with Iorek in Lee Scoresby’s balloon toward Svalbard to save Lord Asriel from the panserbjørn.
In the end, I enjoyed this volume more than I did the last one. It’s still a little frustrating, however, that I have to wait another year for the conclusion. Also, as I said in my review of the first one, if you’ve never read the original novels, I high recommend them. The comic still feels like it’s mostly for loyal fans, like myself, or people already familiar with the story. The volumes are fairly thin, and given that they retail at about $10 a piece, you may want to wait for a complete volume of all three, assuming that one is released, if you’re not especially interested in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.