Graphic Novel review: Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book

CaptureNeil Gaiman is a name that has been associated with high quality tales for many a year now. From The Sandman to American Gods and Coraline, Gaiman is known for his diverse talent through various mediums – short stories, novels and graphic novels to name a few. Influenced along the way by such authors as C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll, Gaiman has become one of the most popular names in literature with his unique vision and successes achieved both critically and commercially.

What makes Gaiman’s work so enjoyable is often the visual style that he conveys, with many of his stories adapted from words to panels in a comic book or animated movies. Coraline has gone from a novella to a graphic novel and then a stop motion film, while American Gods is being lined up by Starz to be developed into a series with Bryan Fuller. Gaiman’s work has never been more in demand, which leads us to this brand new graphic novel adaptation of The Graveyard Book.

Created by P. Craig Russell, having worked previously with Gaiman on Coraline and Sandman, this is arguably the most important work of Gaiman’s career. The original novel won the British Carnegie Medal AND the American Newbery Medal, becoming the first ever book to do so. The impact of The Graveyard Book has been felt ever since it was published, skyrocketing Gaiman’s name even higher than it was before. Strangely enough, the idea came to him over two decades previous, but with such a story came self-doubt and Gaiman himself felt he wasn’t good enough to write the story so early on in his career. Luckily the wait was worth it and the success speaks for itself.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the story, The Graveyard Book starts as a gruesome and heart-breaking tale of a young toddler that loses his family to a mysterious murderer. The baby manages to escape the house and get far enough away from the man to hide in a local graveyard. Taken in by the ‘friendly’ ghosts, he is renamed Bod (short for Nobody) and protected by the ghastly ghouls from the other side. As with any shadowy and cryptic environment, the graveyard is full of secrets and dark places, but it’s an enthralling and educational adventure for Bod as he grows up in a hugely unique setting with some very strange teachers!Capture

Whether ghosts or humans, The Graveyard Book shows the reader a real sense of heart, having Bod brought up by those who have already passed but have so much still to offer. There is a feeling of macabre and darkness in the location but Gaiman focuses on the relationships that form and the different outlook that the dead have to the living. Russell’s art alongside the other artists involved in each chapter manages to capture the journey of exploration that Bod goes through in such an enjoyable and mesmerising way that you can clearly see why the original story did so well. From the calm and collected Silas who is a dutiful caretaker to the Owens family who take Bod as their own, all the characters are so well rounded and illustrated perfectly by those involved. Much like Coraline, this is a story that translates extremely well to a visual medium.

What truly stands out however, even beyond the art on the page, is Gaiman’s masterstrokes of storytelling. He has such a grasp on tone and genre that The Graveyard Book juggles many an emotion and takes the reader through a whole range throughout the voyage of Bod. From the relief at his survival to the numerous hysterical interactions he has with various ghosts, there’s a whimsical nature to him that feels unique and quirky yet somehow relatable also. He’s a character you enjoy getting to know and learning along with him. Also, you’ll be desperate to get your hands on Part 2 of the graphic novel as soon as you have reached the final page of this initial release.

This is the graphic novel that The Graveyard Book deserves – one that encompasses all the different sentiments, characters and settings that Gaiman takes us through. It’s a book that will take you back to childhood, to the years gone by where you didn’t know it all and simply wanted to live in your imagination and explore each and every day. We can only hope that if anyone ever gets round to making a film version, it’s adapted with as much love and care as P. Craig Russell and company have done here.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, adapted to graphic novel by P. Craig Russell, is out now from Bloomsbury.

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