Let’s be clear about this right from the beginning – I love a good Jane Austen adaptation. I love the movies, the BBC productions, the audiobooks. I love the modern spin-offs like Bridget Jones’ Diary and The Jane Austen Book Club. I’ve read plenty of the Austen continuations (my personal favorite is Darcy’s Story by Janet Almer). I gobble it all up, but it never occurred to me that someone would take one of Austen’s stories and turn it into a graphic novel.
UDON Entertainment Production is evidently planning to release a whole line of Manga Classics. The first two books of the collection, both published on August 19, are Les Miserables and Pride and Prejudice. What a fabulous idea. Evidently, this isn’t even the first P&P adaptation of its kind. I poked around Amazon and found that Marvel Comics (you read that correctly) has a version of P&P as well. Mind blown. The only graphic novels I have ever read are Maus and Hyperbole and a Half, and my experience with manga is limited to a brief (though surprisingly intense) obsession with Sailor Moon as a child. But when I saw this title on NetGalley, I knew I had to try it.
The text was adapted by Stacy King, and the artist is Po Tse. According to UDON, these Manga Classics are intended for young adult readers, “with strong and accurate adaptations that will please even the toughest teacher or librarian!” As I was reading this one, it reminded me of the Great Illustrated Classics I read as a kid and loved so much. They really opened the door for me as a reader, and I think that these adaptations will do the same thing for kids who love comic books.
I have to start off my thoughts on the experience of reading this by saying that the artwork is absolutely beautiful. I have no idea how long it took to illustrate this, but the amount of detail included on each page is astounding. Take a look at this drawing of Elizabeth and Jane:
I could have spent hours looking at the illustrations, just soaking up each facial expression and clothing detail. Really, really beautiful.
Beyond the gorgeous artwork, Austen’s story that we know and love is still what keeps you turning the pages. The good stuff is all there – Mrs. Bennet is as irritating as a swarm of gnats, Mr. Collins is ridiculous, Lady Catherine is imperious, and Wickham is dangerously charming. Since this adaptation is geared toward a younger audience, King occasionally took some liberties with the story. These instances were rare though, and I understood how simplifying certain plot points or making the occasional small change could make the adaptation easier to follow.
Every once in a while, King will make a shift in the language that feels abrupt. The occasional exclamation of “No way!” doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the dialogue that King has obviously tried to keep as close to the original as possible. But even these moments are not enough to distract you from plowing ahead. I found myself itching to flip ahead a few pages to see how some of my favorite moments in the story would be illustrated. For example, here is Sir William Lucas pairing up Lizzy and Darcy for a dance:
As a manga newbie, I appreciated the guide at the beginning of the book that explained to me how I should start at the back of the book and read the pages right to left. It wasn’t that hard to adjust to, and after the first few pages, I didn’t find it at all distracting. I think this is a great new medium for appreciating an old favorite story.
What do you think? Would you be willing to give this a try? What are your favorite Austen adaptations?