Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Leroy Douresseaux Reviews: A GAME OF THRONES: The Graphic Novel: Volume 1


WRITER: George R.R. Martin
ADAPTATION: Daniel Abraham
ART: Tommy Patterson
COLORS: Ivan Nunes
LETTERS: Marshall Dillon
ADDITONAL ART: Michael Komark
COVER: Tommy Patterson with design by Charles Brock, Faceout Studio
ISBN: 978-0-440-42321-8; hardcover
238pp, Color, $25.00 U.S., $29.95 CAN

Born in 1948, George Raymond Richard Martin is best known as George R. R. Martin, the bestselling science fiction, fantasy, and horror novelist. Martin was also a writer and story editor on the mid-1980s revival of The Twilight Zone and was a writer on the 1980s CBS television series, Beauty and the Beast.

Martin is currently a hot commodity because of the HBO television series, “Game of Thrones,” which is adapted from his A Song of Ice and Fire series of high fantasy novels. The first novel in that series was published in 1996 and is entitled, A Game of Thrones.

Last year, Dynamite Entertainment began producing A Game of Thrones, an original comic book adaptation of the novel (not the TV series). The adaptation is expected to run over 24 issues of about 29 pages per issue. The writer responsible for adapting George R.R. Martin’s prose into comics form is science fiction and fantasy novelist, Daniel Abraham, who sometimes collaborates with Martin on fiction. The pencil artist for A Game of Thrones is Tommy Patterson, who has drawn comic books for Boom! Studios and Zenescope Entertainment. Alex Ross and Mike S. Miller are among the artists drawing covers for the series.

Bantam Books has collected the first six issues of the comic book as A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume 1. This initial story arc focuses on the House Stark, the northernmost of the fiefdoms that owe allegiance to King Robert Baratheon, who resides in King’s Landing. Located in Winterfell, House Stark is headed by Eddard Stark and his wife Catelyn with their sons: Robb, Brandon, and Rickon; two daughters: Sansa and Arya; and Eddard’s bastard son, Jon Snow.

King Robert is coming to Winterfell to bestow an honor upon Eddard, one he cannot refuse. Meanwhile, Robert’s conniving wife, Queen Cersei, Jamie (her slutty brother), Tyrion (her other brother who is a devious dwarf), and Robert and Cersei’s vainglorious son, Prince Joffrey, begin causing chaos in the House Stark – everything from murder and attempted murder to crass manipulation and conspiracy.

Meanwhile, there is another vainglorious royal, Prince Viserys, heir to the fallen House Targaryen, which once ruled all of Westeros. Viserys sets in motion a plot to reclaim the throne, and the first move in this plot is to make his sister, Princess Daenerys, a prize to win the army of a swarthy barbarian chief.

Not being familiar with anything related to A Game of Thrones, I didn’t expect much of this graphic novel/hardback collection, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Unlike many mainstream comic books, A Game of Thrones is not a colorful, kinetic adventure filled with superheroes, large fight scenes, and a slavish devotion to continuity. Although this is fantasy and has an involved internal mythology, the character drama drives the story, more so than genre trappings and elements.

This comic book is basically a soap opera with a large-scale cast, but is set in the world of medieval fantasy. I have not read the original novel, and I am still impressed that Daniel Abraham is able to make so many characters interesting and intriguing. Normally, my eyes would cross from trying to keep up with all the machinations and the numerous subplots, but Abraham makes it clear and straightforward.

I think that Tommy Patterson is a good artist; he can certainly draw, but his storytelling is inconsistent. He draws some scenes with an awkwardness that is inappropriate for those scenes – such as the fight scene between the children in issue #5. Considering that this fight leads to recrimination and execution, Patterson’s composition of the fight lacks dramatic impact. For the most part, however, compositionally, stylistically, and graphically, his art creates an attractive world for A Game of Thrones. Although I mostly avoid anything with his name on it, I really liked Mike S. Miller’s cover art for issue #4, with its fine art quality drawing on Jon Snow and his direwolf.

For years, I always hoped that some publisher would take the opportunity to adapt a novel to comics, but also have the patience to produce the adaptation over a long-running series. Over the past few years, Marvel and Del Rey have ventured to do so. I consider A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume 1 to be the reward for my patience.

As a bonus, The Making of A Game of Thrones is a large section at the back of the book that offers a generous selection of art and text explaining the production of A Game of Thrones the comic book series. Readers that like to see comic book pencil art will find themselves quite satisfied.

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