Monday, December 19, 2011

Beowulf the Graphic Novel by Gareth Hinds

In the city of Denmark, there was a hall in which the king and his men were being tormented by a monster named Grendel. The king called upon Beowulf from across the land to help rid the soldiers and the village from Grendel. Once he arrived, he told of how he defeated an octopus and how he was more than capable of defeating Grendel alone. Once in the battle with Grendel, he tore off his arm and hung it up for the whole hall. Eventually Grendel’s mother came to avenge her son and Beowulf went to fight her and ended up killing her and her son. Later the king of the Beowulf’s homeland died and Beowulf became the king of everything. He ruled peacefully and then one day a beggar was walking and saw a goblet in the cave of a dragon, which he took. The dragon was upset and began to terrorize the people. Beowulf faced the dragon and was fatally wounded by him. He killed the dragon and died after saying his last speech.

Beowulf is the protagonist in this comic. He fights Grendel, Grendel's mother and a fire-breathing dragon. Beowulf is the strongest and most capable warrior around. In his youth, he personifies a perfect hero. In his old age, he proves to be a wise and effective ruler.
Grendel is a monster that preys on Hrothgar's warriors in the king’s mead-hall. In the novel, Grendel represents the first challenge that Beowulf must get over. It is almost like Beowulf first proves himself to the rest of the men by beating Grendel.
Grendel’s mother is more monstrous than her son having less human qualities and avenges her son. Beowulf found Grendel’s mother to be another challenge in the book. Once she died, he was officially able to kill Grendel because she was the protector of Grendel.

The epic poem is split into three books in which each book has its own artistic style. In the first book, Hinds uses a type of parchment paper as a backdrop to his drawings. This style was evident to us when we described page 7 as: old style, watermarked, and clean. Parchment paper is made from cleaned animal skin which made it smooth to write on which would explain the preciseness of the drawings. It is also noted that in this book, the drawings that take place in the banquet hall have an ink blot effect in the style.

In book two, Hinds uses wood the same way he used parchment in the previous section. The reader notices this change because of the streaks that line the page and also the knots across the pages that also appear in chopped wood planks. On page 29, the wood is seen most as the circular streaks span across the page.

The last book in the poem, the page style changes to that of old newspapers. The gutters of the pages are white with old watermark stains in the corners. One can hypothesize that this style of the book symbolizes the fact that Beowulf has grown older.

As this poem is divided into three parts, they serve as the beginning, middle, and end. The structure of this seems to be heavily reliant on graphic elements, rather than textual. The most interesting part of this structure is that at the climax of this graphic novel, there was absolutely no text involved, just a unique use of color, closure, and slant panels. It is even more credit to Hinds for successfully capturing all of the anticipated gore vividness of these scenes without using a single line of text beside the onomatopoeia, of course.

In this interpretation of Beowulf, Gareth Hinds is able to effectively use visual contents to exemplify the telling of the epic poem. Ranging from white to black and from red to blue, a wide variety of color hues along with shading were utilized to help with the emotions of the book. Tones of red were used during the battle between Beowulf and Grendel’s mom to help the reader feel the intense moments, Grayscale panels help to show that in book three Beowulf is an old king and how the battle with the dragon leads to his death. Color also helps the reader know that things like the black blood come from or are caused by a monster or something not human-like. Likewise, a circular radiating background around Beowulf during several fighting scenes seems to emphasize his heroism. The reoccurring constellation background in book one helps to set the time in which the story takes place; a time where the constellations were very bright as pollution and man-made light didn’t hinder their viewing. In the time of Beowulf, constellations were a big part of life helping with traveling and to know the time of the year. Hinds’ use of blending onomatopoeia really adds to the action and stimulates the reader’s sense of sound like the three dimensional boom when Beowulf enters Heorot Hall for the first time. The visual elements: the shading, the color, the background and the blending onomatopoeia really become a big part of this graphic novel; bringing it to life and making the epic poem Beowulf, a true joy in reading.

As this graphic novel follows the original epic poem, the themes between the two seem to be synonymous. The fact is all great things come to an end. Beowulf’s rise, peak, and fall accurately portray and bring to life this saying. The graphic novel puts a face to this saying as well, so the emotion for the reader is intensified. For example, in the beginning of the book, he is shown as this high and mighty individual who is capable of defeating any foe. As the book progresses, he proves that he is above all by slaying both Grendel and his mother. After his peak, he begins to decline as portrayed in his last battle with the dragon. His reign tragically comes to an end, but an end nonetheless.

1 comment:

Michael Hancock said...

Your review focuses on Hinds' visual elements, as is appropriate for a comic that is very much image-driven. You explain at length the effect of many of Hinds' artistic choices. Devote more than one paragraph to "visual content," since that term covers a wide array of devices and techniques. A few statements about the poem need to be corrected: Denmark isn't a city but a country, Hrothgar doesn't summon Beowulf, and the "beggar" is actually a slave.