Beowulf (review: 2/5)

I haven’t yet summoned the courage to tackle Beowulf in one of those authoritative translations yet, but I figured a graphic novel could do the trick. I tried Gareth Hinds’ graphic adaptation of Beowulf. The text is in a fresh translation, so it’s an easy read, but still has a noble, epic quality. I really wanted to like this one, but things didn’t work out. Some weird inconsistencies threw off the whole package for me.
It seemed like the art direction and illustrations took on a couple different styles over the course of the book. Some parts look hand-drawn and colored on computer, other parts look wholly of ink and watercolor. I think the paneling was a bit ad-lib, jagged, frantic–too excited for its own good. Especially in the early portions of the book, the poem is broken up into large chunks that are interspersed throughout the narrative. So, you end up with a couple of wordy pages and then a bunch of pages of pure illustration. I was a bit bothered that the action scenes were completely silent—I’m not looking for “POW” and “AARRRGGH” and “KER-THWAM”… I’m just not sure if the silence is because the original text glosses over the battles, or if it was the artist’s discretion. I have to admit that one very nice touch is the latter portion of the book, dealing with Beowulf’s final years. That final section is in a washed-out palette of grays, and the story has a sense of inevitability and confidence that I didn’t find in the rest of the book.

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