Tuesday, July 01, 2008

William Shakespeare's Macbeth: The Graphic Novel by Arthur Byron Cover and Tony Leonard Tamai

On a faraway Ringworld, men fight from the backs of flying Dragons, wielding sword-like guns, and actual swords. When MacBeth, the thane of Ross, is made Thane of Glamis, as well. But a chance encounter with three witches have Macbeth thinking that he could be King.

When he tells his wife, she agrees, and pushes him into the deed. But neither after rests well, and King Duncan's sons flee far afield to raise up men to fight against the true author of the murder: Macbeth. To keep his position secure, Macbeth becomes a tyrant, even going so far as to murder his friend Banquo because the witches prophesied that Banquo's son would also be King someday. Banquo's son escapes his father's murder, and also takes up arms against Macbeth.

Macbeth goes again to consult the witches when he hears of the armies coming against him, who tell him he will not be killed by any man born of woman, and that his position will be secure until Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane. The second is fulfilled when the rebels use branches from Birnam woods to disguise their movement, and the first when Macbeth is told that MacDuff, the man he is fighting, was "ripped untimely from his mother's womb", or was delivered by Cesarian.

I was rather disappointed with this manga/graphic novel. Although it is competently done, the story and words are so dense and complex that even the largely pictorial nature of the graphic novel are unable to make it be very comprehensible on first reading. Like the play itself, the book takes work to understand what is going on.

Perhaps it is the nature of the play, or the words themselves, but the story comes off like a bunch of talking heads in many places, the nature of Shakespeare's words makes the book a struggle to understand. This isn't helped by the cramped nature of the panels, which are often filled with all manner of strange things.

The science-fiction setting didn't quite fit as the setting of the play, and the flying, laser-beam breathing dragons don't add anything to the story. As far as the "Ringworld" setting, I couldn't tell that they were even *on* a Ringworld. I wouldn't have known without the book telling me so in the foreword.

While I enjoy Shakespeare's plays, I don't feel this was a good adaptation of the man's work. The artist's flourishes and the science-fiction conceit of the setting would have been better served in an original work, and the story would be better set in its actual historical date and location. I can't recommend this book, as it takes a wonderful play and turns it into a prosy, convoluted mess. It could have been done better.

1 comment:

cj miskin said...

I've tried another two graphic versions, (both for the classroom) this one http://www.amazon.com/Macbeth-Classical-Comics-William-Shakespeare/dp/1906332037/ref=pd_bbs_sr_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1214904974&sr=8-3 by Classical Comics and this one http://www.amazon.com/Macbeth-Graphic-Shakespeare-Library/dp/1579126219/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1214905020&sr=1-1
By Shakespeare Graphic. Both full colour, high quality. Both unabridged. Both set in period. They worked with my classes, and T've grown very fond of them too!! Try one :-)