What do you get when you combine one of Jane Austen’s classic works with the minds behind Marvel Comics? Why, a graphic novel series of course. Nancy Butler has turned three of Austen’s works into graphic novel format thus far: Sense and Sensibility (which I’ve reviewed here), Pride and Prejudice, and now Emma. As the newest release, Emma intrigued me because I’ve already enjoyed one of Butler’s works, and figured that combining two of my great literary interests (Austen and to a lesser extent, graphic novels) would be a lot of fun. Butler tells the tale of Emma, Knightly, Jane Fairfax, and all of Austen’s other beloved characters with as much enthusiasm and truth as the original work. Adding a new dimension with the incorporation of the graphic novel format, Butler relays the tale of Emma and her belief that she is always correct in all things despite her limited worldview. It is not until the proposal of Mr. Knightly that brings her back to reality that she realizes how wrong she has been the entire time.
Being a graphic novel, obviously the most important part of keeping and capturing your audience would be the illustrations. With that being said, each of the three Austen graphic novels I’ve read have had a different illustrator so far. The illustrations in Pride and Prejudice led to very “porn-like” characters and didn’t match the original descriptions of the characters at all. Sense and Sensibility was much better, with tasteful illustrations that matched the time period. Emma, on the other hand, had very child-like illustrations that seemed out-of-place. It became difficult at times to discern characters due to similar illustrations. What I found interesting was the attention to detail spent on the wallpapers, designs on women’s dresses, and scenery, while so little was spent on making sure each character was distinguishable. Every character seemed to have similar facial structures and hair. On the other hand, the adaptation of the text was done quite well. Butler has done a great job making sure that the bulk of the story is told, and the important bits of dialogue make it over to the graphic novel adaptation. I’m sure a lot of people would think that Austen’s work would be diminished by being imported into a graphic novel format, but I think the illustrations can actually aid in telling the story. People that don’t have the time to pick up Austen’s novels and read them may find it easier to get that Austen “fix” by reading these graphic novel formats. In all, I enjoyed Butler’s adaptation of this timeless classic, as well at her other works in this format so far. Although the illustrations needed definite work, certain parts were done quite well. I can’t wait to see what’s next in this series!
3 out of 5 Stars
Emma by Jane Austen, Nancy Butler, and Janet Lee
Marvel Enterprises (2012)
Paperback: 120 pages