Book Review: Beowulf by Santiago Garcia and David Rubin
Staff Writer By: Ricky Grove (gToon)
The original story (the oldest surviving English poem) is simple and filled with melancholy. Readers weaned on Game of Thrones fantasy won't find complex political intrigue or ambiguous characters. This Beowulf captures the poetry and horror of the original in part by reducing the text and emphasizing the stark and bloody imagery from the original poem.
Beowulf is a project that was long in the making. Originally a childhood dream of artist Santiago, it took David Rubin to adapt the poem into a text that captured the spirit and feel of the original. Here's a quote fro Santiago's blog on Beowulf:
Santiago gets exactly to the point about the challenge facing artists adapting such an ancient classic. That he and his partner take such pains to understand the original Beowulf poem so as to effectively translate it to a visual medium speaks volumes about just how great their version is. You can read a good deal about this process in Santiago's blog entries on Beowulf.
While the text of this version of Beowulf is effective, it is the artwork that dominates the story. Perhaps this connects to Santiago's assertion that any Beowulf adaptation reflects the interests of the age in which it was written. Ours is a visual era due to the dominance of film and tv. But what is so exceptional about Santiago's work is that his style does not copy from film/tv, but instead creatively expands on it in order to present an original way to visually tell the story of Beowulf.
Beowulf is a graphic novel that rewards re-reading and it wasn't until the second time I read it that I began to understand that there are many subtle touches (small boxes of visual imagery, etc.) that enhance the story and mood. One also moves away from reading it like an heroic story and instead one of tragedy and death. In that sense, Santiago and Rubin's adaptation of Beowulf is intensely modern because the various (and many) deaths in the story have meaning on their own. You even feel for the deaths of Grendel and his mother.
Image comics should get a medal for issuing this remarkable graphic novel in english. Anyone interested in stylish and poetic graphic storytelling along with intense evocation of an essential world myth/story should rush to buy this book. My brief description and comments on Beowulf are inadequate for this brilliant graphic novel.