Saturday, February 07, 2009

And Then You Die


I have an obsession with Beowulf, perhaps because it's the only classic epic I think I understand. To me it expresses the most basic fact of human life--We achieve when we are young and strong, then grow old and die. "Come in what shape it may, death will subdue even thee, thou hero of war." (Hinds' version.) This to me seems far more profound then what little I got from The Odyssey--Men are pigs.

I first became aware of Gareth Hinds' graphic version of Beowulf two years ago, and just stumbled upon it on the new book shelf at the library this past week. I can't tell you how satisfying it is to read something that grabbed my interest once upon a time, because usually I just forget about these things.

I think you have to have read a traditional version of this story to really appreciate what Hinds has done here in terms of telling the tale with so little text. Yes, there are pages with larger narrative boxes then we usually see in a graphic novel and there are no dialogue balloons at all. But there are far more wordless pages, pages that take us through entire battles. This Beowulf really demonstrates how a graphic novel can show action.

The overall visual impression is stunning, and the narrative sticks to the original storyline. There's no sex in this Beowulf the way there was in 2007's movie version. You can't pretend that Beowulf got what was coming to him because he did the nasty with someone he shouldn't have.

In this graphic Beowulf, just as in the original old text, Beowulf got what is coming to all of us.

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