Let’s begin this edition of CF with a little apology to constant readers who come here looking for a weekly fix of comics that need to be read. This edition of the column is, alas, a review. CF wasn’t visualized as a review column—the idea behind it was, and remains, to write about comics that your columnist found interesting, good, edgy or plain entertaining. We are going to break that rule this time, and for good reason.
I don’t know if I have mentioned that I often buy books on instinct—including how the cover looks and the book starts. That could explain why I picked up the Biggles books (not disappointing at all) from EuroBooks, and not the Agatha Christie comics from the same publisher.
The comics and I would have continued on our different (and parallel) orbits but for someone, presumably from the publishing firm, sending several of them to Mint’s Mumbai office. From there, they were forwarded to me. On such things are reputations made, or lost.
I read the books, all six of them, including a few featuring Hercule Poirot, and decided to review them, after all.
I have read almost all of Agatha Christie’s works, some several times over, and despite spanning several sub-genres within detective fiction, the books have some commonalities: They are heavy on atmosphere, filled with strong characters and characterizations, and usually end with a classic denouement or resolution which sort of explains to the reader why he or she got it all wrong. Some of the lady’s books are written like romantic thrillers, others have a strong touch of the mystic, a few are downright funny, and still others are dark works of detective fiction that border on the noir without really going into it.
All this makes the books ideal for transformation from the prose form to comics.
Yet, none of the EuroBooks Christies comes close to the original. Worse, they are bad comics even when seen as independent works.
Here’s a small sampling of what’s wrong with the comic books: competent but not outstanding pen work (illustrations) that fails to capture either the atmosphere or the essence of the characters; poor scripting in terms of choosing what to leave out of the prose form of the books and what to put in; and a complete lack of imagination in dealing with the denouement—the climax that all Christie fans look forward to while reading her books (even if they are only rereading them).
Among the books I read was The Man in the Brown Suit, one of Christie’s lighter books and essentially the story of a delightful caper in search of some precious stones, And Then There Were None, a dark tale of retribution, and The Mystery of the Blue Train. All three disappointed.
By the end of it all, I had the feeling that someone had taken Christie’s originals, made movies from them, cut out every alternate scene and then some, and then turned the result into a comic.
There are young people out there who have never read Christie. Had they been any good, these comic books might have just encouraged them to do so now. Not only will these people not know why their parents make such a big deal out of Christie, they will never know and experience the lady’s magic.
There are also people who have never read a graphic novel. The EuroBooks Christies prominently say “Graphic Novel” on the cover. These people will likely pick up the books and then go back thinking graphic novels are no big deal. Which isn’t true.
The books aren’t true to Christie. And they aren’t true to the graphic novel genre.
P.S: I have just discovered that two of my favourite writers, Mike Carey and Steven T. Seagle, have a new series out. Carey’s is based on Japanese myth. And Seagle’s is about religion, virginity and violence (all combined in a way that’s strangely reminiscent of Garth Ennis’ Preacher books). They will feature in a future edition of CF and sooner than you think, Constant Reader.
And apologies for the review—won’t do one for some time now.
Write to Sukumar at email@example.com