Review of Northern Lights – The Graphic Novel – Philip Pullman

Posted: August 27, 2018 in fantasy, graphic novel
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The incredible story of Lyra Belacqua will begin in La Belle Sauvage – the first volume of The Book of Dust. Now you have the opportunity to revisit her adventures in Northern Lights, with this graphic novel adaptation of a masterpiece, which comes to life with incredible full-colour art. Follow Lyra’s story once again in a way you’ve never experienced it before, as the arrival of her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, draws her to the heart of a terrible struggle – a struggle born of Gobblers and stolen children, witch clans and armoured bears. Lyra hurtles toward danger in the cold far North, never suspecting the shocking truth, that she alone is destined to win, or to lose, this more-than-mortal battle. This edition combines all three illustrated volumes of the story, now available for the very first time in hardback.

Northern Lights – The Graphic Novel

Philip Pullman

adapted by Stéphane Melchior, art by Clément Oubrerie, translated by Anne Eaton

Doubleday

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

The publication of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights as a graphic novel was inevitable. The book had been published in several languages as well as being made into a film. Surprisingly, the graphic novel was initially French and required retranslation back into English. For those who are wondering why retranslate and not just slip Pullman’s dialogue into the speech bubbles – don’t go there. It’s the arcane worlds of publishing and translation.

To answer the obvious questions, it sticks to the story and to story order. The original 450 pages have been reduced to 280. Considering “a picture is worth a thousand words”, this isn’t a reduction in length and points to the eloquent sparsity of Pullman’s work. It had been quite a while since I read Northern Lights (or watched The Golden Compass), that re-reading the graphic novel wasn’t a chore.

Perhaps the most important aspect of a graphic novel is the artwork, and Clément Oubrerie has done an excellent job. The style is suggestive of drawings by early teens, as opposed to the hyperclean comics of DC and Marvel. The colours are subdued, like those of a Northern Europe autumn. Mercifully, he has eschewed the bright ink of Asterix and Lucky Luke for dull pencil. Melchior has kept the dialogue balloons small and ownership obvious.

While the original version of this story was the text novel, this graphic novel was as satisfying. Plus it is encouraging me to try the French version. Definitely worthwhile.

The publication of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights as a graphic novel was inevitable. The book had been published in several languages as well as being made into a film. Surprisingly, the graphic novel was initially French and required retranslation back into English. For those who are wondering why retranslate and not just slip Pullman’s dialogue into the speech bubbles – don’t go there. It’s the arcane worlds of publishing and translation.

To answer the obvious questions, it sticks to the story and to story order. The original 450 pages have been reduced to 280. Considering “a picture is worth a thousand words”, this isn’t a reduction in length and points to the eloquent sparsity of Pullman’s work. It had been quite a while since I read Northern Lights (or watched The Golden Compass), that re-reading the graphic novel wasn’t a chore.

Perhaps the most important aspect of a graphic novel is the artwork, and Clément Oubrerie has done an excellent job. The style is suggestive of drawings by early teens, as opposed to the hyperclean comics of DC and Marvel. The colours are subdued, like those of a Northern Europe autumn. Mercifully, he has eschewed the bright ink of Asterix and Lucky Luke for dull pencil. Melchior has kept the dialogue balloons small and ownership obvious.

While the original version of this story was the text novel, this graphic novel was as satisfying. Plus it is encouraging me to try the French version. Definitely worthwhile.

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