Monthly Archives: February 2016

Macbeth adapted and illustrated by Gareth Hinds

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macbeth coverMacbeth adapted and illustrated by Gareth Hinds
Candlewick, 2015.

For my money, Macbeth is the most accessible of Shakespeare’s tragedies, if not all his play – and consequently one of my favorites. So it’s a natural for Gareth Hinds to take on, after tackling some others from the Bard’s oeuvre including Romeo and Juliet (2013), as well as Homer’s The Odyssey (2010)

I saw an amazing production of Macbeth several years ago at the Open Air Theater in London’s Regent Park, which was billed as being intended for 6 year-olds and up though only, I suspect, if your 6 year-old was wildly precocious. While it’s impossible to compare a live theater production with a comic book, I was hoping for some of that drama and imagination, which I felt I didn’t quite get with this graphic adaptation, but that just may be me being a bit of a Shakespeare snob.

This is a very traditional and rather somber Macbeth set in the 12th century, where Hinds mostly lets the words do the work. The colors for the exteriors are a very Scottish blend of muted greys, blues and greens for the outside, and the interiors are orange and gold bleeding into shades of scarlet and crimson.macbeth interior

Hinds has abridged the text thoughtfully, but has left the words largely untouched, and presented as prose rather than poetry, with only the occasional (noted) clarification. The plot moves swiftly with the narrative flowing easily and comprehensibly. I didn’t care for putting anything to do with dark forces into black speech balloons, and found it a bit clunky.

It is beautifully drawn and very human – we don’t see Macbeth, or Lady Macbeth as monsters, rather as puppets to their fate. The three weird sisters – one ‘traditional’ witch, one African witch doctor and one Gaia type – bring some chill, and, even more so, the three masters they summon. While keeping to a fairly traditional layout, Hinds plays with panel sizes and shapes, most notably with a sinuous jug shape when Lady Macbeth is preparing the drugged wine.

One spread worked astonishingly well – that of Lady Macbeth’s ‘Out, Damned spot’ soliloquy, which is all visceral red, and uncontrollably scraping, chafing hands; and there is a striking image of Macbeth’s shadow as a dagger pointing him to his fate. Macbeth’s soliloquy after Lady Macbeth’s death, when he’s facing a final battle, “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow”, is beautifully illustrated with Macbeth’s world weariness and resignation perfectly captured.

As with previous books, I enjoyed the author’s backnotes on his adaptation of the text, and then some explanations about some of the individual images and panels.

I think Hinds is doing a splendid job bringing classic and rather challenging texts to a more accessible comic book context, and applaud him for his ambition and achievement.

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Scar Girl by Len Vlahos

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scar girlScar Girl by Len Vlahos
CarolrhodaLAB, March, 2016.

Picking up from where the William Morris YA debut finalist The Scar Boys (2014) left off, this compact and fluidly written realistic novel, set in the late 1980s, follows the Scar Boys band up to making their first record and beyond.

Told chronologically, in an interview format, by guitarist Harry, drummer Richie, and, mostly, bassist Cheyenne, the novel starts with a brief catchup on the original story and then moves forward. The focus is on the personal and social issues of these band members as they all struggle to deal with fourth member Johnny’s leg amputation. Though Johnny is the heart of the band, his words are notably absent from the narrative, giving an ominous foreshadowing. Music takes more of a background role this time, and though some song lyrics are thrown in, like most song lyrics they feel clumsy and trite without music.

The voices of the three narrators/interviewees are not particularly distinct, though the band members are all distinct characters, only bonded by their love and need of making music. Burn victim Harry, the focus of the earlier novel, takes more of a backseat with the spotlight now on Cheyenne. She suffers a traumatic loss early on, and reaches out to drugs, alcohol and casual sex to relieve her emotional pain, becoming the ‘scar girl’ of the title, though her scars are internal unlike Harry’s.

The setting seems less well-realized than in the first book. A few period details mark this out as being in the 80s – phone booths, clothing and no Internet – but other than that these teens and their issues could be contemporary (of course, that makes it more relatable).

Though this seems a tad less fresh than the original, and the melodrama of the ending is a little jarring, fans of The Scar Boys will not be disappointed with this sequel.