Saturday, December 17, 2011

Super-old Superheroes?

By: Vidya Anjur, Status Kuo, Logan Damiani, Eaton Guo, Byron Mui, & Hyun Jin Song

The Epic of Beowulf is a story that’s been told down the generations, and it is now at least 1000 years old. For those that don’t know the story quite as well, the premise is that the Danes are under attack from a monster, called Grendel. So, the hero of the Geats, Beowulf, comes to the rescue! The epic goes from there and chronicles Beowulf’s battles throughout the rest of his lifetime. The comic divides the story into the respective three books the poem was divided into, denoting the three crucial points in his life: the three battles.

After the first couple of pages, it is clear that there is an attempt in trying to connect the story to the present. Gareth Hinds mentioned that Beowulf acts as a superhero of his time, and still stands as somewhat of a superhero. The constellations in the book are a puzzlement, but it seems that they are meant to help connect the story to the modern day. Even though more than a thousand years have passed, the constellations are still the same, allowing us to relate more to this story. They could also be showing the passage of time within the story, as they appear to shift positions in the sky every few pages. Of course they could have also been drawn for their aesthetic value, but the details that are present (such as the names and outlines of the constellations) normally aren’t just put in on a whim.

The constellations are an example of visual symbolism within the story. Another example is the aspect of religion that often comes out within the story. For example, when Beowulf finally defeats Grendel, and emerges from a pool of bloody water with Grendel’s head between his teeth, a cross is shown. The epic poem also demonstrated this aspect of religion (which may be largely due to the fact that it was transcribed by a monk).

The exposition of the story is definitely much shorter proportionally, as compared to the actual poem. It’s apparent that Gareth Hinds made an effort to significantly cut down the length of the story. This particular rendition of this timeless classic puts more of a focus on the visual aspects of the story. For example, there is a far greater focus on the fight scenes between Beowulf and Grendel, as well as between Beowulf and other antagonists. These fights are also quite detailed, demonstrating the author’s interest in these particular scenes.

The graphic novel had many visual focuses in respect to art work. The style of the art changes significantly throughout the story. For example, the frames at the beginning are more irregularly-shaped, like a traditional action comic. There is also onomatopoeia during the fight scenes in the beginning between Beowulf and Grendel, while the later parts contain none. The tone towards the end of the novel also changes, becoming more serious and reflective. This is apparent by the change in page color--the pages begin as very colorful and lively, but as the story progresses, they become a parchment color, then a browner color, and finally a purple-gray color similar to that of stone. This change in page color could represent the liveliness and youthfulness of Beowulf: towards the beginning, he was still young and strong, but as he got older, he became less powerful. It could also perhaps be another way of signaling the change in time throughout the story.

With this all said, Gareth Hinds does the genre of superhero comics justice; however, in comparing this version to the epic poem itself, the graphic novel does not quite do a satisfactory job. We recommend this book for those that want a thrill like a superman comic, but it is not a good representation of the timeless epic.

1 comment:

Michael Hancock said...

Your thoughtful review captures several distinctive elements of Hinds' adaptation--his symbolic imagery, his compact exposition, his visual techniques (layout and color). Your analysis of these elements is strong. Because this is a review, more emphasis could be placed on evaluation. Why do you find Hinds' adaptation unsatisfactory?