Twilight: The Graphic Novel Vol. 1

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I thought I would kill two bird with one stone by also publishing this review of Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1.

When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerising voice and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret…

This graphic-novel rendition of Twilight exists solely for the purpose of milking the cash cow – how many young women who devour the Twilight Saga books have picked up a comic book or graphic novel in their lives? I would bet not many, if any. However, there is a method to the madness, and Young Kim’s rendering of characters is beautiful, but cheapened when you notice backgrounds or establishing frames are photographs Photoshopped to look like drawings, as well as the confusing placement of images and the lettering of text (Times New Roman – really?!)

At about double the weight of the original novel, Twilight: The Graphic Novel Vol. 1 feels lofty and glossy. Save for a few sequences that are coloured, Twilight GN is almost entirely in black-and-white, however it is printed on a glossy paper that distances itself from manga printed on rough paper (which was probably the intention).

Kim’s artwork is beautiful, to say the least, and amplifies the feelings one may experience while reading Twilight – beauty, isolation, confusion – Kim’s captured it all to great effect. Of course, this being the first volume (at the time of this writing, it seems to be the only volume) it doesn’t cover the entire first novel, going up to the famous meadow and sunlight revelation scenes.

Perhaps I may be biased, but I felt this was better than the original novel – despite the fact Stephenie Meyer has to have her name in large letters on the front and spine and was probably breathing down Young Kim’s neck while she was working on this. There is a short dedication from Ms Kim at the back of the book (where, of course, most dedications are [end sarcasm]) where she writes, and I quote:

“To the reader, I sincerely hope that your own unique nature is loved, particularly by yourself… – Young Kim”

I was supremely touched by this and will buy anything I see with Young Kim’s name printed on without second-guessing. Not only is it such a broad yet personal remark that is moving to the reader, but also speaks of Edward’s feelings, especially throughout Twilight, being a monster but wishing to be loved. It’s that why I believe Twilight is popular – Edward finds happiness with Bella after a century of loneliness. It’s that loneliness I believe that is extinguished once someone like Bella can come into one’s life. It’s finding happiness just before you give up looking.

I have become lost, swirling around in the reasons why Twilight could be popular, but the graphic novel iteration is something of a mixed bag. Kim’s drawings are beautiful and romantic, the book’s layout, however, leaves much to be desired, especially with Meyer’s text being adhered to so strictly, however, for any Twilight fan out there, this is surely a no-brainer. Four skulls, half a star more than the novel version due to Kim’s fantastic artwork, but barred from five stars (don’t scoff, it could have been five stars) due to the poor layout and Photoshopped backgrounds.

 

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

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Twilight by Stephenie MeyerBefore I get into the meat-and-potatoes of this review, I would like to begin by providing a small back story this writer went through up until purchasing all four Twilight books earlier this week.

I remember seeing the trailers for Catherine Hardwicke’s adaptation of Twilight, and was coloured slightly intrigued, despite saying off-hand that vampires were out in the day and flew around like Superman, I let it slide because, come on – this is Catherine Hardwicke! A great director and a great female role model for all creative women out there (I am of the opinion more women need to be in the film industry). I never went to see Twilight in cinemas because there just never was a chance. I picked the Blu-Ray disc up when it was released and watched it with interest, ending up with the whole “Well, it was good, but it’s highly over-rated” opinion.

Then the trailer for the Hardwicke-shafted New Moon appeared on the internet, and I immediately went “Woah. That was cool.” to Jacob transforming into a wolf. It was pretty much then on that, despite my reluctance to admit it, I became a Twi-hard. I still haven’t seen any films in the saga at the cinema (screaming females for two hours isn’t my idea of relaxation) so I’ve bought or received all films on Blu-Ray, and look forward to seeing both parts in the Breaking Dawn saga, slated to hit cinemas this and next November, respectively.

When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerising voice and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret…

I, too, along with many others, cried foul at Stephenie Meyer’s version of vampirism. My only problem with the sparkling vampire aspect of Twilight is that is doesn’t serve a plot purpose besides visualising how beautiful Edward is (which happens so many times in this book – I dare people to have a drinking game whenever Bella says Edward is beautiful and finish the book in one go). I can believe a great many things in a story, be it a novel, film or television, as long as it serves a plot purpose, which sparkling vampires does not (although was used cleverly in the Eclipse film adaptation, showing vampire’s insides as white crystal).

My main problem, having bought the film tie-in edition ages ago was Meyer’s writing. It’s criminally elementary – and I’m pretty sure the concept of a thesaurus doesn’t exist in the Meyer household. Besides her writing “style” (if you want to call it that), Twilight is safe, harmless romantic fun. There is actually a point where Bella stops being this whiny, ungrateful, admittedly nasty person (which is who she is until about chapter ten, “Interrogations”, 172 pages in). However, she goes from being a whiny, ungrateful, admittedly nasty person to being a girl with a one-track mind about how beautiful Edward is.

Things drag on for a while (there is a lot of talking about the logistics behind being a Meyer-vampire) until a vampire baseball game (in the movie, I too, went “What?!”) where three vampire nomads rock up to ruffle some feathers. It is here Bella becomes more of a character, thinking for herself and arguing with the Cullens about hers and her father’s safety. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last for very long. Chapter twenty-four is almost entirely Bella telling Edward how much she loves him after being attacked by the main antagonist, James.

This is also a rare occasion where the film and book on which it is based sit comfortably side-by-side. Books, adapted 100% word-for-word never work because novels and films are two completely different beasts. However, despite a one or two small concepts (like where Alice came from), the film did a good job of staying faithful to the source material while being its own creature. Thankfully in the film the antagonists are introduced earlier and we have none of the pathetic Bella internal monologue.

Stephenie Meyer’s writing does have an advantage, however: one is able to glide through the book at a break-neck pace (I rarely finish books, if at all), so that is one small advantage to the book, however it still doesn’t excuse Meyer from being a poor writer. Plot points don’t necessarily mesh well, exposition is handled sloppily and girl seriously needs a thesaurus. However, if you have seen the film and wish to read the book on which it is based, take your expectations of or your reaction to the film and apply it to the book – both are similar, so if you see the film and not read the book, you’re not missing out on much. I still have three sequels (and a spin-off novella) to plough through, though…

Three-and-a-half skulls.

Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar

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It’s interesting what you find when you aren’t looking for anything in particular. I’m the kind of person that researches almost everything I buy; I want to make sure I’m not copped out. However, I saw this book sitting on the shelf in Big W and thought: “Hey, this looks interesting.” I continued to read the blurb and thought: “I’m interested.” There was no excitement over reading it, no feelings of having to trudge through it; I went into it with an open mind. Luckily, this chain of events has proven to be quite fruitful: thanks to author Martin Millar, his crazy cast of werewolves, supernatural creatures and humans just trying to live from paycheque to paycheque provide a fascinating template for a story bubbling with taking the familial throne, hurt lovers, violent battles and enraged fashion clients.

I read in an interview that Lonely Werewolf Girl came about because Buffy The Vampire Slayer (a show I must admit I weened and teenaged through) ended on that fateful night in 2003 as Sunnydale ker-ploded into oblivion. However, like that theory that The Big Bang was a destruction of a previous universe,leading to the creation of this universe, Buffy’s end brought about another tough, though flawed girl surrounded by the supernatural: Kalix MacRinnalch. However, there are no vampires (yet) and our hero (or is it anti-hero?) is, in fact, a werewolf.

Just like the Joss Whedon-created supernatural show, Lonely Werewolf Girl is not without its drama or comedy. It’s a well-written prose about, well, people, at its core, and the relationships, positive or negative, that those people have between each other.

What works so well about this, and it’s usual in books written in the third-person, is that Millar gets into his character’s heads: he tells the reader what the characters are thinking, whether whatever they’re thinking about his characters agree or disagree with.

The book is a rip-roaring tale set in London (prior to reading the novel, I believed it was set somewhere in America…perhaps I just completely glossed over the fact that it even says London in the blurb? Oh, the ignorance…) It’s a refreshing tale set in London in a market populated by either bloodthirsty, monstrous vampires (Guillermo Del Toro’s The Strain, the recent Daybreakers), sexually driven mysteries (True Blood) or teenage sparkly “vampires” (do I really need to say what I’m referencing here?), Millar’s Lonely Werewolf Girl breathes air into my favourite supernatural creature by providing a fine landscape for his characters to inhabit, and has also developed an almighty mythology the MacRinnalch clan adheres by, giving a true sense of history to the family and the universe he’s built up.

The inclusion of humans may not be surprising in this day and age of interweaving vampires and werewolves with humans (again, True Blood, Twilight, Underworld, and Buffy, of course), but what Millar does with these characters, unlike that author who wrote stories about a superhuman vampiric sparkler, is that he gives his characters dimensions, flaws, addictions, jealousy and other feelings no character should really be without, because that’s what we relate to as humans. We all have flaws, addictions and jealousy, no matter how much we try to pretend we don’t. Millar makes his characters real, and makes you care about them no matter how wooden they try to make themselves (one particular werewolf named Dominil is cold, and seemingly uncaring of events around her, but of course we get into her head to see why she is in fact this way). It truly makes for great reading.

However, not all is well. The edition I read, a recent Australian release, has a few errors in it, but do not fret – Martin Millar knows all about this. It seems that the house that published it didn’t get the memo though…no matter, you still understand what’s going on and absolutely none of the errors are major. Calling the errors ambitious to be minor errors would in itself be an overstatement. You notice them, and then proceed reading the book.

I can’t get over how much I liked this book. At the beginning I cringed at how many times Millar introduced a new character that it felt as if every single chapter would be introducing new characters (and there are 236 chapters, sure they’re only one to two pages, but still), but once the plot actually kicks in and the clockwork begins to tick away, the story is riveting and the characters’ reactions to what is going on is intriguing, and at times, surprising that you can’t do anything but forgive him as every character has a purpose and a place in this story that the effort Millar went to does actually pay off in the grand finale.

The book deserves a purchase for all fans of werewolves, all fans of the supernatural, all self-respecting fans of literature and anyone who wants to figuratively travel to London to escape this incessant vampire phase. I can’t wait for the sequel, Curse of the Wolf Girl in September this year; four out of five.

“Jennifer’s Body” by Rick Spears

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Just to make it clear: I have not yet seen Jennifer’s Body. I was super-psyched to see it until it “bombed” at the box office, and like usual, if it bombs in the States, it’s not worth releasing anywhere else; i.e. Australia. Here I am patiently waiting until late February when Amazon.co.uk has Jennifer’s Body on Blu-Ray so I can finally see the film I was expecting to see last December (the US Blu-Ray is region-locked to Region A, I’m Region B).

This graphic novel (not comic book) delves deeper into the world revolving around Jennifer’s Body, a film written by Diablo Cody of Juno-fame, starring Megan Fox and directed by Karyn Kasuma (Aeon Flux) but the book probably works better if you’ve actually seen the film on which it’s based. Now, I will admit I’ve read the script. Don’t ask me where I got it; I can’t remember. It was hella funny. It was twisted and clever writing, but hardly scary. If anything has changed from this draft (dated 2007; prior to Juno‘s release), it’s that they’ve added more of the horror element, judging from the trailers. However, compared to the original script, this, too, has a more horrific element.

This book is split into four chapters detailing one boy’s journey to being digested in Jennifer’s body, as well as a prologue and an epilogue. I’ll review each chapter.

Chapter one focuses on Jennifer’s first victim, a jock named Jonas who’s having a few problems on the football team, mainly, his balls are shrinking from steroid use. Add to that his girlfriend is bumping uglies with his best friend, Craig. In a fit of rage, he fights Craig, then goes home, depressed. Next day, he finds out Craig has died in a bar fire. Bereaved, Jonas seems distant, even his walnut-sized brain can comprehend emotion and sadness and loss. Enter Jennifer Check, who seemed like she was going to comfort him, only to find a nasty surprise.

Chapter one’s style is not one you’d see in a graphic novel. Perhaps in a children’s comic book you can buy at your local newsagency, but not one you’d see in a – somewhat – sophisticated graphic novel. It’s all harsh edges and vivid, sometimes garish, colours, with some interesting composition. It suits the character of Jonas, implying simplicity in Jonas’ life, since he’s a dumb football jock, but there is something brewing under the surface – SHOCK! – jocks have feelings! I enjoyed this chapter, because Jonas’ priorities are amazingly out of whack, plus it was just fun to look at.

Chapter two focuses on Colin, seen in the trailers for the film, a so-far-in-touch-with-his-emotions-they-take-contol-of-him guy that goes all goth after his favourite record store closes, who has a secret crush on the hottest girl in school, Jennifer Check. He never took the chance at that one summer camp to talk to her, but after he hears her in chemistry, they’re lab partners, you see, she’s listening to Colin’s favourite band, the Dwarves. It is here they hit it off as friends, finding more and more in common with each other. When he asks her out to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Bijou Theatre on a date (with Jennifer thinking he’s talking about Rocky, claiming she “doesn’t like boxing movies”), she gives him a second chance and invites him to watch a film he’s never heard of called Aquamarine at Jennifer’s house, to which Colin agrees. However, he’s not meeting her at her house. And there’s no mermaid chick-under-twelve-flick to be seen…

This chapter was a bit odd. Rick Spears, who wrote all the chapters, prologue and epilogue as well, really got in touch with Colin’s emotions, helping him become even more realistic, however, he looks nothing like he does in the actual film, even after he goes all goth. The ending is abrupt and too short for my liking, and differs from the clip released prior to the film’s release. I enjoyed the backstory of how he dug Jennifer Check at a younger age and never had the guts to talk to her (can anyone say, “Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt!”? I know I can…), but it just seemed, I don’t know. It wasn’t the one I felt was the best visually, either. It was sort of mediocre, it didn’t stand out above the crowd.

Chapter three focuses on Ahmet from India, a character I found hilarious in the script. It chronicles his journey from India to the hole that is Devil’s Kettle for a student-exchange program, where, after a lonely two months, he joins the baseball team after a killer pitch. After the game, however, his team-mates check out his johnson, and from then on, he was called stuff like “Squid”, with his classmates saying “We want a pitcher to throw the ball, not a tentacle”, stupid stuff like that kids actually say. Sad, Ahmet from India decides to go to a local club to listen to a band named Low Shoulder. Their music ignites a passion in him, reminding him of Bollywood, so much so he gets up and dances, with everyone joining in, until something catches light in the club, and the bar goes up in flames. Luckily escaping, Ahmet from India wanders around the streets of Devil’s Kettle, until he sees another survivor, the gorgeous Jennifer Check. “Come with me. We’ll find help.” she claims. “We’ll sort this out.”

This one was interesting, giving a different viewpoint of America through the eyes of a foreigner, going so far as to say “America is horrible.” This is the most depressing chapter in the book, because it seems Ahmet from India is so out-of-place, and so lonely, and homesick, it’s almost alienating just reading it, let alone looking at the images. It does hit a high-point, however, when it goes all Bollywood on us, but when Jennifer actually sets down and begins chowing Ahmet from India up, he takes it, putting his energy into reincarnation. Not resisting, not even surprised that this is happening to him. It’s quite sad, when you think about it.

The last chapter deals with Chip, the boyfriend of Needy (who is the best friend of Jennifer). This chapter chronicles Chip’s depressing existence as boyfriend of the beautiful Needy, but getting caught jerking off by his mum, and then, the next day, caught evacuating the seamen from the Red October during class. Chip is then dumped by Needy, for his own protection, until the night of the school dance, where he bumps into Jennifer, who proclaims her love for him and tells him Needy’s been bumping uglies with Colin, a goth at school, up until he died. Then it goes into an abridged version of events depicted in the film.

This chapter was pretty good, humourous. The artwork was soft, and easy on the eyes. This chapter, like Colin’s chapter, had a too-abrupt-ending for my tastes. The ending leads into the epilogue, which shows Jennifer storming off, supposedly going home to where she’ll meet up with Needy in her shocker of an opening to the movie.

The prologue and epilogue are two, three pages, and are just book-ends for the four chapters.

All in all, I did enjoy this read, but it wasn’t anything groundbreaking. My favourite art was in the first chapter, depicting the simple world of Jonas the football jock, and in each chapter, there was at least one one-page-one-panel piece of art that was pretty cool, be it Jennifer bearing her gnashers, Ahmet from India leading the Low Shoulder Bollywood dance, or something like Needy and Jennifer in a hot fantasy shower, all naked and whatnot. I assume for those that dug the film, this would be a welcome addition to their Jennifer’s Body experience, but those that either have not seen the film (and intend to) or didn’t like the film, you probably shouldn’t bother with this. It has some cool art, some humourous writing and some good nods to the film (or at least, the script) that it should make fans of the film happy. I didn’t dig it as much as I thought I would, but I might dig it more after I finally see the movie. Three-and-a-half skulls.