Artful was a well received book when it was published in 2014 by Peter David; capitalizing on the horror/classic literature mashup, the book gave us vampires in the world of Dickens. Considering David’s history in the comic industry, it wasn’t surprising to see the book get a graphic novel treatment. And although the adaptation is faithful, it can feel ‘cartoony’ in a juvenile way and a lot of the scenes do feel over emoted.
Synopsis: Oliver Twist’s Artful Dodger, Jack Dawkins, escapes prison with his cunning and happens upon a lost young lady, Drina. She’s obviously of quality and Jack instinctively seeks to protect her. But in doing so, he becomes embroiled in a plot that reaches all the way up to the English royal family. Will he be able to save Drina from the supernatural elements targeting her on the mean streets of Dickensian London?
Since this is a mashup, it is important to not take the anchronisms too seriously and just enjoy the dumbness of the plot. It means that a pampered Victorian era royal figure will kick butt in a modern fashion, the Artful Dodger will never lose his hat or cloak in any fight (supernatural or otherwise), and everyone sounds like they just stepped off an attraction in Disneyland. So no, not too different from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer. It’s a novel to have fun with as a delightful Summer read and then promptly forgotten.
The illustrative work is colorful and has almost a Disney quality to it. But admittedly so many of the scenes felt like the characters’ expressions were too dramatic than warranted for the situations. If a scene can be overwitten then so too can panels be overdrawn. I was a bit frustrated by this throughout and felt that it heavily detracted from the story. But on the other hand, the illustrations did catch the bubbly joie de vivre of the story (quite a contrast from the Dickensian source material). Perhaps the best description of this is a very Americanized ‘reimagining’ of Victorian London literature, complete with random (and tenuous) connections to other historic or fabled British figures such as Jack the Ripper and Spring Heeled Jack.
As an adaptation, this serves the purpose. Those who have read the book will likely enjoy it and those who haven’t read Artful won’t get lost in this translation. But the simplicity of the story and illustrative work do feel a bit underwhelming. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.