Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel by Eoin Colfer

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Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel by Eoin Colfer

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: The book of the story of Artemis first trying to steal fairy technology from the underground people is turned into a graphic novel. Not the prettiest of things but a nice enough retelling of the great novel.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 112 Date: October 2007
Publisher: Puffin Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0141322964

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It seems strange that all the regular novels featuring Artemis Fowl disguise his actual looks from us, and yet here is the character's creator collaborating on the graphic novel of the first book in the series. With the great intelligence of Fowl at large it is understandable that no-one knows what he looks like, with his technological nous and Butler's bulk to protect him from hidden CCTV and whatnot.

And now we do know what he looks like, what is the result? Well, a bit of an unattractive sight it has to be said. The funny shape of his head certainly does not coincide with many twelve year olds I know (and I work on behalf of thousands of them a year so I do know of them), and although not exactly Manga-style distorted, comes across as a bit like a cheap Thunderbirds baddy, with odd haircut, deep-set eye and harsh eyebrows. Yegads, he'll grow up into Jimmy Carr. Now there's a worry.

As for the novel side of the graphic novel, this of course is the initial story in the cycle, the one that introduced us all to the fairy-world's police, especially Holly the field operator, Root the commander, and Foaly the techno-minded centaur. There's also Mulch Diggums, the flatulent dwarf criminal that likes to get down and dirty when there's gold (or a reprieve) at the end of it.

Artemis, with absent father and seemingly insane mother, tries to translate the sacred texts of the fairy world, and use that knowledge to capture their technology, and attain a great big pile of gold at the same time. Things aren't of course quite so easy.

On his side is Butler, and I did like his look - the great hulking minder dwarfing Artemis and a contact while driving them round Saigon City. Other characters do not come across quite as well - a lot of the time Butler's sister and Holly are hidden by glasses and other headgear. Foaly doesn't get many long-shots for a good look, a troll as a minor character has a major problem with scale, and for some reason goblins look like the Sea Devils from the old-school Doctor Who.

I would guess with some conviction this was created on a computer, and it's not just the colouring that suggests that. Several panels are repeated, with a slight move sideways - not in parallax, which would involve a full redrawing, and with elements slightly shifted. This results in one very poor picture - I assume it's Butler giving Artemis a reassuring pat on the shoulder but it's very badly done.

The rigid panelling - sometimes one large picture, but often six or nine easily scanned pictures per page - does not help in this regard. There should be more made of Haven City than a one-shot, for example. As a graphic novel the colouring, FX and voice-overs are nicely used and positioned, but the fighting is a little underplayed, and there are many lost opportunities to step back and give us bigger images, with more detail. Also to the book's visual detriment is the small page format - this is not a full-size graphic.

Yet I don't want to come down too heavily on the artists - on the whole they did a decent, coherent job of illustrating the entire adventure, and in this format the book has plusses too. There are many instances as far as my raddled memory can discern of the book taking a different emphasis on events than the original novel, and to my delight the biological detail of Diggum's excreta becomes one funny panel with punch-line spoken through gritted teeth.

I read a lot of graphic novels as light, putdownable entertainment, and hardly ever would give any five stars. This serves as a very good companion to the original novel, but it should be noted I would rate that more highly. And anyway, as the cover quote from the press reminds us, the whole series reads like one rip-snorting comic strip adventure, and so it doesn't take Artemis's intelligence to question the need for a graphic novel version after all.

This is actually pretty good as it goes, despite my being really picky with the visuals. I enjoyed the story all over again, and it served as a reminder of the origins of the saga, with humour mostly intact. If the design was influenced by Eoin Colfer then it serves as a great look-in upon the world he has created, but I maintain this does not replace a book that did not need replacing anyway.

I would recommend it to fans of the stories, as it offers someone else's visualisation of the whole thing, but for newcomers there should only be one way to start - with the highly-recommended original Artemis Fowl book. Fans of sequential art chancing on this review would have to be aware this is of simplified design for the younger audience, and while very nicely detailed on the whole, is not the prettiest BD on the shelves.

I still would like to thank the publishers for giving the Bookbag a copy to sample.

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