Friday, 16 March 2012

‘A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel (Volume One)’ – George R.R. Martin, Daniel Abraham, Tommy Patterson (Bantam)

In this new age of the HBO show (forthcoming computer games and so on) is there anything left to say about 'A Game of Thrones’ that hasn’t already been said? We’re all up to date with the books now and there’s the promise of more seasons of the TV show to come (two more or is it three?) That’s not even counting the flood of merchandise off the back of the show…
Well, it turns out that there is something new to talk about with the arrival of Volume One of the ‘Game of Thrones’ comic book series. Marvel (and previously the Dabel Brothers) has already published the tales of the Hedge Knight Ser Duncan the Tall but this is the first time that the main series of books has made that transition to comic book format.

Not wanting to fork out for another long running comic book series (which this could well end up becoming) I waited for just this moment, a hardback edition collecting the first six issues of ‘A Game of Thrones’. That in itself comes in at an impressive one hundred and eighty three pages so I was interested to see just how well ‘A Game of Thrones’ lends itself to the comic book format. As it happens, the transition was a lot smoother than I would have thought possible and it’s thanks to one Daniel Abraham that it works so well.

I’d be very surprised if there was anyone reading this post who hasn’t already read ‘A Game of Thrones’, or seen it on the television, so I’m not going to go too deeply into the blurb here (thus hopefully avoiding too many spoilers for anyone who isn’t familiar with the book). Lets just say that issues one to six cover the time between the first ranging beyond the Wall to Daenerys beginning to make a home for herself within the Dothraki Khalasar.

Like I said, the story itself has been covered extensively elsewhere and perhaps shouldn’t be the focus of this review anyway. What I was more interested in, right from the start, was how it adapted to this medium and it did very well in this regard.

My copy of ‘A Game of Thrones’ weighs in at an impressive eight hundred and seven pages which isn’t counting the appendices. That’s a lot of detail then and there’s no way that it would all fit into a comic book series, not unless you were happy for the adaptation of the first book to run for a hundred issues at least.
What Abraham does then is to take the more important moments in the book, dress these up with some of the minor details and present this to the reader as a fait accompli. It’s an approach that worked very well as far as I was concerned. I felt like I was getting a clearly defined tale that worked very well within the parameters of the format. There may have been plenty missing but it didn’t feel like there was anything missing out and that was the main thing for me.

It was also interesting to see that Abraham was able to do this by taking the focus off individual characters and merging everything into one ongoing tale rather than the approach that Martin himself takes (with each chapter devoted to one particular character). Maybe I’ve been out of the ‘Reading ASOIAF Game’ a little too long but things seemed to flow much more smoothly here with a story that gradually unfolds rather than jumping to and fro across continents and even timelines.

I suspect that Tommy Patterson’s artwork will come to grow on me more as the series progresses. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, Patterson really brings the world of Westeros to life (aided and abetted by Ivan Nunes’ colours) but the facial expressions he lends to his characters don’t seem to back up the whole ‘gritty, harsh and Machiavellian’ thing that Martin wants his reader to be a part of. It feels like they’re all smiling at the most inopportune times!  It’s a small complaint though and I think that, as the story progresses, Patterson should be more than up to conveying some of the darker moments to come.

Volume One then is an excellent start to the ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series in comic book format. It neatly side-steps all the problems that I foresaw and, if it continues in this vein, promises great things for the future. I’m certainly there for the long haul now.

Nine and a Half out of Ten

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