G3 Review: Twilight – The Graphic Novel

This is a big week for the Twilight franchise with the release of The Twilight Saga: New Moon DVD and Twilight: The Graphic Novel. I pre-ordered both, and I’ve been hitting up the UPS site regularly to track my packages. I was beyond thrilled on Wednesday when I saw that the graphic novel had been delivered. After a minor battle with my daughter over who was going to read it first, my wait was … almost over. I acquiesced once I realized I was being a bit of a brat. (HEY! Don’t judge me. Twilight is a hell of a drug.) Besides, her bedtime is way before mine. I knew I’d get to be alone with my precious soon enough. Volume 1 offers up the first half of the Twilight story. Here’s the good, the meh, and the ugly.

The Ugly
Worst speech bubbles ever! What the hell? They’re awkwardly placed on the page, and they’re so obnoxious-looking that they often overshadow the artwork. And isn’t the art the whole point of a graphic novel? This should have been called Twilight: The Graphic Novel with STUPID, UGLY, SPEECH BUBBLES. They even have these weird squiggly lines denoting who is speaking, but because of the bizarre placement, that didn’t help me make sense of things. All I got were ugly squiggly lines over the art I had paid to enjoy. Considering how much money this franchise has made, couldn’t the publisher have sprung for a letterer? Oh, how I have taken for the lettering for granted in my comic books. I had no idea how crucial it is to an illustrated medium’s authenticity and visual atmosphere. All hail the letterer! And fuck Yen Press for typing it up in Times New Roman and Monotype Corsiva. Cheap Basterds.

Edward, Bella, and dumb, ugly speech bubbles in biology class

The Meh
Though I read comics and graphic novels constantly, I’m not that familiar with Manga or the nuances of Manga style. So the entire time I’m reading the book, I’m thinking, “What the hell is that damn teardrop thing Bella’s always got on her face?” I now know that is used to show anxiety, embarrassment or insecurity. Let’s just say it was a permanent fixture.

Much of the background detail, with the exception of “The Meadow” (thank friggin’ goodness), is done in a photorealistic style. I’m not sure if this was just another example of Yen Press’ stinginess, or if the artist isn’t great at backgrounds. Twilight fans can be obsessive, so I can imagine someone — maybe author Stephanie Meyer herself, saying, “Let’s put a real image of Forks High School, and do some cel-shading. Those crazy Twihards will love that.” Whatever the reason, these panels left me lukewarm. Part of my huge excitement about this graphic novel stemmed from the potential for some beautiful, distinctive interpretations of scenes from the original book — not a damn gray-scale, shaded photo of a silver Volvo on a Washington highway. Perhaps I should learn to draw.

The Good (Spoilers ahead!)
No matter how many times I watch the Twilight movie, it just doesn’t give me the ultimate high of the book it’s based on. Where the movie fails, the graphic novel delivers. The graphic novel doesn’t have to pander to Hollywood and time limits. This adaptation maintains the integrity of the story, and I got ALL of my favorite quotes. I also got so see many scenes I had only imagined before: Bella contemplatively staring in the bathroom mirror, blood-typing in biology, cooking dinner for Charlie and dreaming about Edward. I got to see the lemonade bottle-top, Bella’s decisive meditation in the forest, the new-age hippie lady in the bookstore and the conversation in Edward’s Volvo on the way back from Port Angeles. It was a joy to see those scenes.

I also thought the characters were drawn very well. Kim did an excellent job of staying true to Meyer’s descriptions. There are some beautiful splash pages, and the Manga technique of speed lines works perfectly when Edward demonstrates his vampire prowess. The best part, by far, is the meadow scenery. Since Forks is this gloomy place with little to no sun, the entire book is gray-scaled. But once Bella and Edward climb the mountain and step into the meadow, the sun shines gloriously — in color. In fact, these are the only panels that are done in color, and it works. Of course, there’s a full color splash page of Edward as he steps into the sun and sparkles. It is quite perfect.

Verdict
I’d expected better quality overall, given the vast amounts of cash this series is raking in. The apparent corner-cutting gave me a twinge of disappointment. That aside, the book manages to convey all of the important aspects of the story, but not as intensely as the original book. My opinion is that the graphic novel is a better choice for young girls who are dying to read Twilight. Did I enjoy it? Yeah — but that was kind of inevitable.

6 thoughts on “G3 Review: Twilight – The Graphic Novel

  1. I guess it happens with a franchise this big: cutting corners because they know the fans are going to devour it anyway.

    Personally I don’t care for Twilight. Anymore. But if I was still as fangirlly about it now as I was a couple years ago, I would have totally freaked in a very good way. Especially since I was heavy into manga/anime. It’s cool for the fans, though, but I have the feeling that most of the Twihards really won’t pay much attention to the negative aspects of the graphic novel.

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    • Jennifer, I think you are right. It demonstrates a lack of integrity on the part of the creators, which is wildly disappointing to me. I know there is all kinds of bullshit, excess merchandise out there for Twilight. But being the lover of comics that I am, this was one project I thought was worth a damn. Whatevs. I’ve got plenty of other quality material waiting for me. And this is just volume one, perhaps they will take heed to the blogosphere, and dish out the money for a letterer in volume two.

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  2. WOW! So apparently the artist herself did the speech bubbles, and has reasons for doing so. That being said, they still suck. Here’s a quote from CBR’s interview with Yen Press:

    There’s one last thing I do have to ask about in terms of the “Twilight” book, and that is that there are certain people in the comics industry who were a little non-plussed with the lettering in the graphic novel, both in terms of it not looking like more traditional letting in its technique and in terms of there being some awkward placement and such. How did some of those production issues and choices come about?

    Well, those weren’t production issues. There seems to be a misconception within the comics community here about how that was put together. When you’re working in American comics, yes, it is standard to go out and assign a letterer to letter a book, but that is not what you generally see in Asian markets. It’s not what you see in Japan and in Korea. So for the original books that we work on, we ask the artists to do the book themselves. This was not a book that was lettered by a letterer…this was lettered by the artist.

    And as far as the balloon work goes, a lot of what I heard was “Oh, these are just randomly placed.” That is absolutely not the case. When you’re talking about a professional letterer working in comics, the role of the letterer is to stay out of the way of the art. You would absolutely never see a case where the letterer is allowed to place a balloon over a character’s face. When the artist is doing the balloon work and she’s selecting where that lettering is, if she places a balloon over a character’s face, there’s a reason for it. I’ve seen one panel held up time and again as “How was this done?” Well, it was done because the artist had a very specific reason for putting it there. [Laughs] It’s funny, because I see a lot of the comments, and I’ve seen some people speak to that because they recognize what she did. But people aren’t looking at the book and trying to ascertain why the book was done that way. They’re putting the presumption of how things are done in this industry and trying to apply it to a case where it’s the artist making that call.

    You can read the full interview here: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=26401

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  3. HI! First of all, love your website! Second of all, I myself am a GIANT OBBSESSIVE twilight fan who was a little disappointed with the graphic novel. I agree that the speech bubbles were annoying and a bother. AND also wish that the whole book was in color. But other than that, I really enjoyed reading it. I only wished Edward didn’t look so young. He sort of looked like the boy next door instead of an otherworldy vampire. And I was REALLY ANGRY when Charlie didn’t have a mustache. HAHA. Also, i agree with you on the picture/drawn backrounds. But overall, was OK with the Graphic novel. :)

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