Monday, November 8, 2010

Fantasy series get graphic

Disney-Hyperion adds another dimension to two of their popular fantasy series with new graphic novels.

Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (adapted to the graphic novel format by Robert Venditti; art by Attila Futaki and color by Jose Villarrubia) introduces Percy, the half-human son of Poseidon, and the other inhabitants of Camp Half-Blood, a haven for young demi-gods. A feud between the gods provides Percy with the opportunity to prevent celestial war and make his distant father proud. Jackson devotees may miss omitted or compressed scenes (no Medusa in the Garden Gnome Emporium? Di immortales!), but the spirit of the original holds up well. The precise timing of panels lends extra oomph to punchlines and action scenes, while settings spanning multiple panels or full pages suggest the epic scale of Percy's quest.

The first in Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus series, The Amulet of Samarkand (adapted by Stroud and Andrew Donkin; art by Lee Sullivan and Nicolas Chapuis), follows magician's apprentice Nathaniel and his unwilling djinni Bartimaeus as they try to stop an overthrow of magician-run Parliament. Readers may wonder who's really in charge: ambitious but inexperienced Nathaniel, or cheeky Bartimaeus, who's been around the block a few thousand times. This version suffers a little from the loss of Bartimaeus’s flippant footnotes, a prominent comic device in the novel. But the smart-aleck djinni still gets in plenty of verbal and visual cracks, maintaining the book's balance of humor and danger.

Both adaptations seem better suited to an audience already familiar with the series than new readers, but fans will appreciate these new incarnations of favorite characters.

-- Katie Bircher

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