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Comics Poetry: The Adapted Victor Hugo HC
Edited by Joe Johnson
Published by NBM Publishing

The manner in which poetry can compress a universe of ideas into an elegant, compact handful of words seems ideally suited to adaptation into comics form. This is readily apparent in The Adapted Victor Hugo, the first volume in a new ComicsLit series adapting poetry into comics.

In 96 pages, editor Joe Johnson compiles a broad sampling of Hugo's poetry, brought to life by a diverse group of artists working in a wide variety of styles. The opening piece, "Pretty Girls," vividly demonstrates the divisions between sexes and classes. It's a grim, convincing portrait that is as pointed today as it was when it was written in 1870. Efix's art nicely contrasts the beauty of the titular "Pretty Girls" with the cost of their metaphorical demands on the rest of the living.

"Oceano Nox" is a moody rumination on the dangers of seafaring, with some of the best art in the book, provided by Isaac Wens. His depictions of a French fishing village and its environs is gorgeous, gallery-ready images that perfectly bring the poem to life. It's one of the better examples of how the pictures can bring even more impact to Hugo's already revered work.

"At Dawn Tomorrow" is illustrated by Alfred. Hugo's poem reflects on the loss of his daughter, and the empty voyage that lay ahead of him as a result of her death. As is appropriate, Alfred's art is barely there and completely effective in making way for Hugo's dark resignation. Perfect.

As comics, The Adapted Victor Hugo works best taken one story at a time, allowing the reader to linger on the images and the powerful text. As an introduction to Victor Hugo, this compact little hardcover is a brilliant distillation of an enduring mind whose observations remain powerful and thought-provoking. Each story is supplemented with a text version of the poem adapted and brief notes informing the reader of what was going on in Hugo's life at the time it was written. NBM is off to a great start with this series, and I look forward to seeing future volumes. Grade: 4/5

-- Alan David Doane



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