"Beowulf" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Santiago Garcia
Illustrated by David Rubin
2017, 208 Pages
Graphic novel released on January 11th, 2017
When this comic came through the HorrorTalk offices, I did not know what to think. My only real exposure to the story of Beowulf was Robert Zemeckis' 2007 awkward mo-cap movie, which is definitely not the right place to start. That being said, I dove into this graphic novel adaptation and realize that this should have been my first encounter with the tale as it's way more entertaining, plus it's more creepy than the uncanny valley we had to deal with in the movie.
Beowulf follows a Scandinavian hero as he battles a handful of monsters throughout this life. The first such beast is Grendel, which has been terrorizing a kingdom for years. Artist David Rubin's design for this creature is worth the price of admission alone. It has a basic human shape, albeit larger and far creepier. It's massive in size with big scales that look a bit like tree bark covering its body. The whip-like tail slashes about, working like a fifth appendage. Then there are the teeth. There are so many teeth. It can open its mouth extremely wide, almost like a snake unhinging its jaw to devour prey.
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Rubin's art direction throughout Beowulf keeps the tension high as the story progresses. He pulls back to show big action scenes in double-page spreads or panels, while also including smaller interior panels giving you a close-up of a particular detail, like Grendel's eye or its jaw. This juxtaposition is used often and to great effect.
While the monsters are impressive on their own, the bloodshed they create is almost moreso. These creatures tear through human flesh like it was tissue paper. Blood splatters everywhere in big, heavy drops. Intestines and other organs fly every which way. The kills happen in increasingly elaborate ways.
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Much of Beowulf is told without dialogue. After all, the original story is just a long poem, so there's not a ton of content to adapt. The creators fill this 200-page graphic novel with some great character development. You learn so much about Beowulf from his appearance and his actions, so you don't need much in the way of text to explain what he's doing.
I don't know if they teach Beowulf in schools, but I doubt this will be an acceptable replacement for the original poem. It's far more entertaining, I'm sure. This graphic novel shows the rise and fall of a legendary hero capable of defeating monsters that would make normal men tremble in their boots. If you like Game of Thrones, this is the comic for you.