Monday, August 30, 2010
In Which Trai Reviews 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel'
The Book: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel
The Authors / The Illustrator: Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice), Seth Grahame-Smith (Pride and Prejudice plus zombies), Tony Lee (adapter), Cliff Richards (illustrator)
How I Found It: I was asked to review it for Austenblog, given that I tolerate the monster mashup craze more than most.
The Review: I was asked to include that Del Rey publishes this book in the United States, whereas Titan Books does in the UK.
If you're a Janeite, or even if you're not, I'm sure you know about the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies craze by now. I'm sure that many of these mashups were in development before PPZ and were released once it was known there was an audience, but many of them have not had the same success as the original. I'm one of the more accepting of the craze myself, but I still find myself rolling my eyes as more and more books join the fray. Having read this graphic novel adaptation of the work that started it all, it seems like an attempt to join in on the cash cow--one that doesn't seem to have worked quite that well.
So we all know the schtick by now: it's Pride and Prejudice, plus zombies. The original author, Seth Grahame-Smith, worked closely with Austen's text to figure out which parts he felt needed more action--mainly, the parts that he found boring. I can't speak for myself--a few other Jane fans I know and I agree that if you've read the original, PPZ can be quite slow going--but of the (mostly men) non-Jane fans I know who have read it, they all seem to be in agreement that the zombies help them get through and actually enjoy the book. To each their own, one supposes.
The thing is, Grahame-Smith seems to have paid more attention to the original text than the adapter did here. This is the third Austen-related book I've read this year where Elizabeth has been referred to--repeatedly!--as Miss Bennet, when only Jane should be referred to as such. The audience it's targeted to won't even notice, but if the adapter wanted to be taken semi-seriously by Janeites, these things should at the very least be fact-checked. You'd think you could gather that etiquette just from watching a movie adaptation. In an effort to make the speech sound formal after he (from what I could gather) dumbed it down somewhat, Mr. Lee managed to have a glaring etiquette mistake.
As I said, the speech did at times appear to be "dumbed down" (for lack of a better phrase), though most of the recognizable lines seemed to be present. At times, it was clear that this was to make it fit into the speech bubbles; at others, it wasn't immediately apparent why it needed to be dumbed down. For example, "let at last" in the very first sentence about Netherfield is changed to "is occupied again." I would have at least given the readers enough credit to be able to work that one out contextually, but it was not to be. Some scenes from PPZ were cut and led to slightly awkward bridging dialogue (instead of showing Lizzy and Jane playing "Kiss Me Deer", Mrs. Bennet scolds them when they come in dirty, leading to a sentence's worth of explanation as to what "Kiss Me Deer" is, when Mrs. Bennet would have already known this). Also, without chapter breaks, we are left with constant cuts to scenes with the headings: "One Week Later" / "The Wedding of Charlotte and Mr. Collins" / "Pemberley" / etc. The story seemed disjointed and lacked a flow without those chapter breaks and text explaining what had happened in the intervening time.
The graphic novel could also have benefited greatly from being in color--the illustrations were black-and-white and I'm assuming that that decision was made for expense reasons, as coloring can get expensive. However, the black-and-white drawings made it difficult to tell the characters apart--all the Bennet sisters (and even Mrs. Bennet, at one point) looked far too similar; hair color would have helped greatly. (Jane is given dark hair, whereas Lizzy and the rest are, I assume, blonde, but the differences stop there. It was also a slight break from the fanon tradition of Jane being blonde and Lizzy being brown-haired.) Even Darcy and Bingley were becoming difficult to tell apart based on the drawings, and this would most definitely be a hindrance to someone not familiar enough to the original text to know who is speaking. The faces are also only sketchily done once the person is further off, as well, to give the impression of distance, but it was distracting and led to far too much "well, who is THAT?" on my part.
One of the good things about this adaptation is the ability to see all the fight scenes from the original in a more detailed fashion than the original's illustrations. We get to see the zombie battles in all their gory goodness. For this reason, I probably wouldn't recommend this one to anyone younger than 15--reading a description of the violence and gore is different than actually seeing a drawing, albeit a black-and-white one, of it. Anyway, all the bloody scenes well-known to PPZ aficionados are there--Darcy and Lizzy taking down the zombies feasting on Netherfield's servants, Lizzy eating the heart of one of Lady Catherine's ninjas after a battle, Lady Catherine and Lizzy's fight in the dojo, etc. There's also a nice scene, not originally in the novel IIRC, of Mr. Bennet teaching Bingley how to kill "the unmentionables."
Overall, the book receives only a marginal recommendation from me--it could have been much better handled by an adapter who paid more attention to P&P as well as PPZ, and color would have been a great help to those confused by the drawings, myself included. I would recommend this only to those who might wish to see the zombie battles depicted in more detail than we received in PPZ. If you'd like to introduce someone to the mashup craze, however, or to P&P in general, you're better off sticking with the actual Pride and Prejudice and Zombies--or, you know, the actual Pride and Prejudice.