With graphic novels, it really comes down to the art conveying the emotions and subtitles – can the artist translate the words so the reader understands the author’s point of view? In the case of The Good Earth, ‘sketch’ type illustrations, very small and many on the page, didn’t allow Buck’s observations on human nature to shine. Instead, parts were confusing, the story felt flat, and so much was missing.
The plot is intact here: humble farmer Wang Lung weathers the storms of war and famine in pre-communist China. As he grows more influential and wealthy, he often becomes the things he despises. But through it all, it is his tie to the land that grounds him.
Those who haven’t read Buck’s novel should probably stick to the written word. There’s enough missing in this adaptation that it can be very frustrating to follow. Indeed, I found myself going to Wikipedia to figure out certain plot points that were missed in this graphic novel. Those who have read the book will find this a bit of a refresher but not likely anything that adds to the story.
The art itself is very loose – there are many scenes and so each page will have 6-15 different little black and white ‘vignettes’ splashed haphazardly on the page. It’s not hard to follow but it isn’t very rewarding, either, since the images are so tiny. At many points, I kept feeling like I was missing so much – there just wasn’t enough in the art to affirm this visual treatment. Which isn’t to say that the art was bad; it just wasn’t expressive enough to tell the story.
One can get the gist of the story here but at the same time, it will probably leave people wondering why this is a Pulitzer award winning story. In addition, I found it hard to back a graphic novel whose cover art does not represent in any way what will be found within.Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.