I’m going to admit, I’m not much of a comic book person. I haven’t opened a single issue comic in longer than I can actually remember. But graphic novels, now there is something I can get behind. I guess the difference to me is that the graphic novel at least gets somewhere in the story, where the single issue feels like a short chapter to me. So, no, I hadn’t read any of the Wheel of Time comics except for New Spring (which I did only in graphic novel form and then reviewed on Tor.com). Thus, when I was at Dragon*Con and heard Tor Books was releasing the first volume of The Eye of the World: The Graphic Novel, I might have pulled a string or two and gotten a copy sent to me. And now, my friends of Dragonmount, I shall share my thoughts on it with you.
There is one major thing I have to say, and that is I am so relieved to have a single artist for the entire volume. New Spring, because of its production issues, had three different artists, and the style difference, in fact the character design differences, were jarring. Additionally, artist Chase Conley did a remarkably good job of capturing the characters. As a fan of the series, I was able to identify the characters without having to be introduced to them. There was only one exception, and that was Tam al’Thor. Yes, it was obvious who Tam was, but I actually had always envisioned him a bit stockier than the Tam the comic gives us. This is probably more due to sloppy reading and a strange initial impression on my part, though, than a failure of the art direction. Because, you know, it isn’t like Maria Simons and Alan Romanczuk from Team Jordan and Bob Kluttz from Encyclopaedia-WoT weren’t checking on the art direction or anything.
In addition to the in story art, the graphic novel has a collection of all the cover art that was done for the single issues and a collection of concept art and sketches. My only complaint is that the only concept art of Min was on a page-crease, so I couldn’t really see it. It was very interesting seeing how some of the characters developed, though.
Okay, I lied. I have two other gripes. Padan Fain didn’t look quite weasel-like enough for me. It was probably the rictus-like smile he wore the entire time. I kind of always envisioned him as a snarl-type person. And, while the heron-marks are mentioned, they are not drawn in any of the shots of Tam’s sword. All in all, very minor nitpicky things.
We are again blessed to have Chuck Dixon as the script writer for this adaptation. Robert Jordan was pleased with his work, I know, and Chuck has been very true to the feel of Jordan’s narrative without having to copy and paste it word for word. The dialogue is crisp, and I can almost hear Mat whispering to Rand about the badger he caught. And, just so you know, this particular volume covers both the “Raven” and “Dragonmount” prologues, and the main narrative up to Rand spotting the Draghkar in the sky as they are leaving Emond’s Field.
Of course, a review isn’t fair if I don’t talk about what I didn’t like, and it is pretty heavily on the actual adaptation side of the house. First and foremost, I am not tickled pink about “Raven” being the very first thing I read. Well, scratch that, a very good introduction from Robert Jordan was the first thing I read, in which he gives a basic outline of the world. But that was exclusively text. The first panel of art with words was “Raven,” which is then followed by “Dragonmount.”
Why does this bother me? Well, I have a bit of a documented love of the “Dragonmount” prologue. It sets the tone for the whole series and really deserves to be the top billing, in my opinion. It does everything a prologue is supposed to do that many fantasy authors fail at, which is it introduces us to the world, sets up the conflict without even having to introduce us to the hero, and makes me want to read more.
“Raven,” on the other hand, just doesn’t do it for me. Yes, we get a bit of the world in Tam’s story, but the framing of it around Egwene carrying the water only served to distance me from the emotional impact, despite the gorgeous two-page spread depicting the War of the Shadow. I feel they should have held “Raven” off somehow, perhaps as a mid The Eye of the World interlude. Yes, I know that in the Young Adult version, From the Two Rivers, it was done the same way as in the comic, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
The other complaint I have is that I was really looking forward to using this as a tool to get new people into the Wheel of Time because, let’s face it, the first half of the first book can be a little onerous if you aren’t already a hardcore epic fantasy fan. And, honestly, this still can be used for that purpose. Getting out of Emond’s Field is a ridiculously long affair word-count wise while it actually wasn’t all that much of the book story wise.
So, what is the hang up? Character names. As I said, a fan can recognize who is who, but if someone new was reading this, they’d be kind of confused about who is talking and why people are cowering at this wisp of a girl that is storming by. Yes, that’s right, Nynaeve is not formally called by name on panel, or even directly off panel, until the scene where she says she can’t heal Tam. A few others of the people blend together here and there that, again, as a fan I was able to keep straight, but I have the overall sense that a new reader might be a bit lost.
Of course, I don’t think this is entirely the writer’s fault. Nor is it the artist’s, really. It comes down to: there are only so many ways you can make a village of people look unique enough in a comic book format to be kept track of. In the book, it is easy because everyone is always referred to by name in the narrative. Not so much here, eh? And it isn’t like they can all have different and massively unique clothes, at least not in Jordan’s world.
And my final complaint? On the first page of the main narrative, when we are getting those words that are so sacred to all Wheel of Time fans, the ones that start “The Wheel of Time turns,” they aren’t there. The first words are “In one age, called the Third Age by some, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist.” That is the opening paragraph.
Now, I know that not everything can be included, but seriously, the opening paragraph? The one that is the same in every single book? I’m surprised those were left out. Surprised, and a little disappointed. I might be adding a sticky-note to my version, just saying.
Overall, though, I loved it. I really loved it. This is not just a beautiful visual aid to the story, but a means of being able to enjoy the story in a new way. I eagerly look forward to the next volume.
Richard Fife is a writer, blogger, and a little perturbed by the face Moiraine made when the boys knew her name. If you want to know what he means, go read the graphic novel. He is currently writing a weekly, serialized, illustrated steampunk novel called Meister of the Secret, part two of his Tijervyn Chronicles. Both parts are free to read on his website in web, epub, and mobi format. You can also Internet stalk him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
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