As an obsessed Jane Austen fan who has been an comic book fan in the past, I gushed unabashedly over Marvel's adaptation of Pride and Prejudice when I first learned about it. It was a bit hard to find at first, but it finally showed up at my local Books-a-Million. I had arranged to meet Kat of Fantasy Literature there, and I hope I didn't make a bad first impression on her when I was all over the comic book like the younger Bennet girls on men in red coats.
Now that the second issue is due out, I remembered to blog about the first.
The issue, which was penned by romance author Nancy Butler and drawn by Hugo Petrus, takes us from the famous first lines ("It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.") all the way through the end of Jane's visit to Netherfield. The text holds no surprises, which is just as it should be. Ms. Butler's job appeared to be picking out the bits of dialog that propelled the story along, and with as few narration balloons as possible, manage to tell a fifth of the story in a standard-issue comic book. It can't have been easy. She did make subtle alterations to dialog--enough to make footnotes and explanations unnecessary. For example, Mrs. Bennet says:
Tiresome man! You must call on him, of course. Mr. Bingley is to marry one of our girls. You know they will be left penniless once you are gone. Indeed you must go, for it will be impossible for us to visit him, if you do not.and Mr. Bennet responds,
You are over-scrupulous, surely. I dare say, Mr. bingley will be very glad to see you. I will send a note throwing in a good word for my little Lizzy.This condensed a whole page of dialog into two lines, plus throws in a hint of the Bennet's financial situation, which doesn't come up until much later in the book. I think Ms. Butler stuck very well to the spirit of the text and the feel of the dialog.
I was impressed by the artist's strict adherence to the fashions of the day. And indeed, true Austenophiles would demand nothing less. It was good that they recruited a romance author as the writer. I imagine she also served as consultant.
At first I wondered why Mrs. Bennet was not in an empire waist gown, but then I realized that it was entirely probable that Mrs. Bennet would wear fashions that were popular in "her day." You can also see the traces of the youthful beauty that she must have had once in order to attract Mr. Bennet in the first place. Jane and Lizzy are exactly what they should be, with Jane a blond and Lizzy a brunette. Contrary to the cover image, Lizzy does not look like Jennifer Ehle from the A&E Adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Lydia is a sultry beauty, Kitty a plain redhead and Mary a snooty-looking brunette. The artist used great restraint with various feminine attributes--there's hardly any cleavage to be seen in the entire issue.
As for the men, Mr. Bingley is a sideburned blond, with an everpresent smile. Mr. Darcy is predictably dark and handsome--no surprises there. I do wish the artists had found a way to make him something more than a generically handsome Ken doll.
The letterers--Alejandro Torres and David Sharpe-- had a bit of a boring job, with only straight dialog to letter, hardly an explanation point in the whole thing. The only text effects appear when Jane goes to Netherfield in what becomes a thunderstorm, with a KRAKKKA BOOM. I'm glad they didn't intrude with too many text effects. I'm curious about how they plan to handle Darcy's letter. It went on for pages and pages in the book, and could surely fill an entire issue by itself. I hope they attempt to portray it in how them imagine Darcy's handwriting to look.
The ads seemed completely misplaced, since certainly Marvel's usual readers will not be reading this comic. So the ads for The Immortal Iron Fist, Wolverine, Spider-Man and Cable are a jolt. I think the advertising department should come up with a different advertising model for the Marvel Illustrated series, since certainly the readers of those comic are unlikely to pick up an issue of a slavering Wolverine. At the very least, they should offer different artwork. If they wish to lure a reader of Pride and Prejudice into picking up an issue of Wolverine, then perhaps they ought to show artwork featuring Wolverine's more gentle side.
All in all, it was well worth the $2.50 that Books-a-Million charged for it, which is half the price on the cover. Just a tasty morsel of fun, which is just what a comic book ought to be, and wholly without the usual embarrassing artwork.