"The Graveyard Book: Volume 1" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Harper Collins
Written by Neil Gaiman
Adapted by P. Craig Russell
Illustrated by Kevin Nowlan, P. Craig Russell, Tony Harris, Scott Hampton, Galen Showman, Jill Thompson, and Stephen B. Scott
2014, 192 Pages
Graphic novel released on July 29th, 2014
After his family is brutally murdered one night, a young boy makes is way down to the local graveyard, barely escaping the killer. Although he didn't seem to realize that he was in any real danger. He was taken in by some local ghosts and looked after by Silas, the vampire that lives in the cemetery. As long as he remained within the grounds, he was safe from the man out to kill him, but what happens when he starts to grow up? This is the setup for Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, which P. Craig Russell has adapted into a graphic novel in two parts. Volume 1 includes the first five chapters and an interlude.
I have yet to read Gaiman's novel, so this was my first exposure to The Graveyard Book. As with other works by the author, you're quickly encapsulated within a fantasy world of his creation. The rules are made very clear early on and the characters exist to break them. With all the bloodshed, it's almost hard to believe that this is aimed at a young adult audience. The violence is never glorified. In fact, you don't actually see the boy's family get murdered. Instead, you see the aftermath and can fill in the blanks.
The boy, later named Nobody or “Bod” for short, can go anywhere within the graveyard. He's raised by a pair of ghosts, with others serving as his teachers. Upon nightfall, Silas comes out to speak with and look over him. This may sound like a dream come true for a kid. You get to crawl around a cemetery whenever you want, exploring old mausoleums and other old areas. Your parents are ghosts. Your best friend is a vampire.
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Bod is a curious child. While he understands that he's not supposed to leave the graveyard, he often does anyway, going on little adventures and always getting into trouble. He doesn't realize the danger that he's in. The killer can track him down when he's outside of the graveyard. He's safe within the gates. Maybe he's just too young for this to be explained to him, but it gives him a level of innocence that only a child can have.
Each chapter of The Graveyard Book is illustrated by a different artist. You can imagine how strange this might look with six different artists working within one comic. Fortunately that is not the case here. The chapters flow into one another and the styles are similar enough that it's never jarring to flip the page and find yourself within someone else's work. In fact, sometimes I wouldn't even notice that the artist had changed. It's very seamless.
Every artist also captured the purity of Bod. He often has a look of mischief as he constantly tests the boundaries of the graveyard. When he hears about a witch buried in an old part of the cemetery, he isn't scared by it. Instead, he wants to go talk to her and hear her story. That innocence is found in every panel with Bod.
The Graveyard Book deals with death and ghosts and other supernatural creatures, but it shrouds them in a level of mystery that instantly pulls you in. Gaiman is a master storyteller and it shows in this story. The graphic novel adaptation brings the author's words to life, expanding them to new heights matched only by the reader's imagination.