Twilight the Graphic Novel Redux

This week saw the release of both the New Moon DVD and the Twilight graphic novel. Whoo hoo. I somewhat shamefacedly purchased the DVD (at the same time, I bought Where the Wild Things Are to maintain balance in the universe, and Becky bought one too, so I wasn’t alone in my shame), but am waffling about whether or not to buy the graphic novel. I am a casual manga fan, love love love the Holly Black g.n., and kind of feel obligated to own a thing if I’m going to bitch about it loudly after a couple of glasses of Malbec, so I decided to check out some of the reviews.

Courtesy of the awesomeness that is Bitch Magazine, here are a couple of quicky review tidbits and some links to help decide if it’s worth my $15-ish dollars ($20 sticker price, but I’ll get this one at a discount somewhere to sugar up that bitter pill).

BitchMediaI Can Has Feminizm?”

While Young Kim’s quality manga-style artwork eliminates a lot of Meyers’s interminable descriptive prose, it can’t get rid of the book’s counter-feminism and general ridiculousness. 

Manila Bulletin Visual flair for a weak prose

The beautiful artwork also emphasizes even more how weak Meyer’s prose is. Some captions that accompany particularly good illustrations end up looking clunky and awkward, but thankfully, never enough to distract readers from Kim’s art. 

Comics AllianceThe Twilight Graphic Novel Review

Unfortunately, once you actually start reading the book, it all falls apart completely.
And it’s all because of the lettering.
That might seem like a small thing to pick on, but that’s because like coloring, when lettering is done well, it doesn’t draw a lot of attention to itself.  …  But like coloring, bad lettering is very, very easy to spot.
And “Twilight” has the worst lettering I have ever seen. 

I think that last one underscores one of the problems when another media or genre co-opts the graphic novel form without having a well thought out reason (aside from $$) for doing so. More from Comics Alliance:

Even if you can get past the fact that they lettered an entire graphic novel in Times New Roman — which I assume was a choice meant to make it look more like a novel and less like a comic — they still managed to get everything wrong. To start with, the balloons themselves, which are clearly the product of the Ellipse tool in Photoshop, and which manage to be both gigantic and poorly placed. So gigantic and poorly placed, in fact, that they not only complicate simple art problems of speaking order, they’re also occasionally reduced to transparencies to avoid obscuring the art any more than they already do.  

Manga and comics in general are an established generic form with pretty specific artistic conventions. For me, one of the real pleasures of the genre is the sense of tangible craftsmanship of a carefully hand-lettered comic. I’m not such a purist nor such a Luddite that I don’t think that digital desktop publishing can facilitate innovation in the form, but that’s not what’s going on here.

Cutting out a credited artist (most comics credit their letterers along with the writer, inker, colorer and other artists involved) certainly saves money, and thus makes more money for the Twilight machine, especially considering how monstrously well anything even remotely tangentially related to the franchise sells (the DVD display at Target included themed plates and napkins for your viewing party – handy!)*  Doing the speech bubbles in Photoshop and electronically typesetting the text also saves a sizable amount of time, allowing the project to be rushed out to coincide with the DVD release. So far from indicating any commitment to innovation in the genre, this is just another mark of the cynicism of the franchise and the raw throbbing marketing power that is the Twilight machine.

So, whether or not this one winds up on the bookshelf depends on how committed I ultimately feel to owning something that may wind up being the object of more sustained criticism or teaching one day. From the looks of the early reviews, there’s plenty to criticize, but merely saying something sucks doesn’t count as grounds for sustained scholarship.

*No, we didn’t buy the plates and napkins. Jerks.

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