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The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell

This entry is part 29 of 56 in the series 2022 Reads

As always, I’m posting this weeks and weeks after I read it. Well, weeks, anyway. 

I sometimes feel like I’m the only person I know who’s never actually read a novel by Neil Gaiman. I have read a couple of short stories and a few of the Sandman comics, yeah, and I’ve seen Coraline, but I’ve never read one of his novels. Decades ago I signed out Good Omens (his early collaboration with Terry Pratchett) from the library: this was back in high school, and I never got very far into it. (I haven’t even looked at the copy of Coraline I have somewhere around here, which I got when my son was younger, intending to read it to him someday.)

In fact, I only ended up with The Graveyard Book: The Graphic Novel on my desk because my wife saw it and borrowed it from the library for me. It was a thoughtful gesture, even though she wasn’t sure I’d care for it, so I figured I’d give it a shot. 

It’s not bad, all in all. I assume everyone else already knows the story, that it concerns a kid who grows up in a graveyard, raised by ghosts and a vampire (and occasionally a werewolf) who try to protect him from his inevitable date with destiny. There are some pretty bits, some sad bits, some bits that I can imagine fans saying you’d have to have a heart of stone not to find appealing. Gaiman’s fans may be the main reason I’ve sort of avoided his fiction, actually—they tend to love those sorts of things, when I just find myself distrustful and even more on my guard whenever I see something that pulls of those kinds of heartstrings.

Distrustful as I felt, I was ready to actually dislike the book, but I ended up thinking it was, well, okay. I wasn’t so much disappointed as I was unsurprised by it, probably because I didn’t set my expectations very high to begin with—and because I don’t think the book really set out to surprise or challenge me in the ways I specifically seek out in fantastical stories. The whole thing felt a bit, I don’t know, safe, storytelling-wise? I’m sure some will chide me that this was written for young people, or other objections that aren’t coming to mind at the moment, but really I think it’s okay for a work not to be for everyone. I also think the worst sort of fans are the ones who think everyone should be a fan of the same thing they like, and the can be the worst evangelists of an author. Not that it’s fair to blame the author, but yes, pushy or over-enthusiastic fans can sometimes make me hesitate to look into a writers’ work, whether or not that’s fair to the author. 

As this is the graphic novel version of the story, I should comment on the art, not that I have any real expertise in the area. I found the illustrations worked well enough to tell the story, and even if they didn’t outright blow my mind, they were remarkably consistent, which surprised me given how different artists drew different chapters. Those small shifts in style seemed less jarring, I think, because they happened between chapters, and because the story is so episodic, and because there was a kind of basic simplicity to the baseline style established early on in the volume. I’d never have noticed a shift if I were reading this as a series of separate comic books, to be sure.


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