Writer: John Jackson Miller (from screenplay by David Koep)Illustrators: Luke Ross; Cliff Richards (pencils); Fabio Laguna; Eber Ferreira (inks)Publisher: Titan Books (£8.99, paperback)
When the rumblings begin in Hollywood announcing an adaptation of a comic book, there’s a great intake of breath as casting announcements are made.
Doom-mongers say it’s sacriligeous and sharpen their knives for bloodshed, whilst the more optimistic start salivating at the thought of seeing their favourite heroes in the flesh swinging across Manhattan skylines or flying into space. And then there’s all that wishful thinking about the ideal actors to play the parts! But what can be said of the reverse situation? How do we respond to a film that is adapted into a graphic novel?
So many blockbusters spawn merchandise like locusts, feeding off a collectors’ frenzy, and in some cases that includes squeezing big screen entertainment into careful chosen consecutive panels, where the artist takes on the might of the director’s chair to recreate his vision as faithfully and as concisely as possible.
How can you cram two hours into less than 100 pages? A feat that even David Blaine would find difficult to pull off. At least a proper novelisation gives an opportunity to tell the whole story in words, with dramatic embellishments. However, a comic book adaptation is a different beast. It can either be a fabulous creature or a real dodo.
Whilst comic book heroes would invariably have their Hollywood adventures converted back to comic book, other movies have moved from screen to the funny books, including the original Star Wars trilogy, Close Encounters, and certain James Bond adventures. So Indy is another obvious candidate, and like so many other franchised film series, he has already had his own continuing adventures in comics.
Thus, here we have Mrs Jones’ wayward son’s fourth adventure, The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, where you’re dealing with a director such as Steven Spielberg, who can create his dramatic tension on paper. And thus, as the opening panels reveal, this is a relatively flat experience in comparison.
The likenesses, often problematic in turns of copyright, are faithful and recognisable, echoing expressions from their big screen counterparts. The film’s set pieces are recreated by carefully selected panels which are condensed down into more symbolic highlights. The bike chase through the streets and campus, and the frenetic car duel in the jungle have little space to hit top gear, relying on the artwork to give the dramatic poise.
For those who have yet to see the movie, it serves as a practical taster, but for anyone who has watched it, the adaptation is no substitute. Not that it is intended to be, but in the right hands, the comic book technique can be utilised effectively.
Indeed, artists Luke Ross and Cliff Richards have taken on the uneviable task of being the Spielberg of pen-and-ink and they have captured the essence of the film. That said, abbreviating an action flick into artistic renditions of stills makes it little more than functional, especially when denied the full experience of a big screen and Dolby sound .The pace is not there nor the grandiose scale, which you might have expected from the master of epic draughtsmanship Jack, ‘The King’ Kirby (who incidentally, did his own comic-book adaptation for 2001: A Space Odyssey). And you certainly don’t hear the stock-in-trade Russian baddie accents.
But at least you can enjoy it without the crunch of popcorn under feet or mobile phone conversations. That’s got to count for something…?