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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"Dark Wraith of Shannara" by Terry Brooks

Official Terry Brooks Website
Order “Dark Wraith of ShannaraHERE
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Read Reviews of “Dark Wraith of Shannara” via A Dribble of Ink, FantasyBookSpot + Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review

Thanks to companies like Dabel Brothers and Devil’s Due Publishing, a number of popular authors including George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan, R.A. Salvatore, Laurell K. Hamilton, Orson Scott Card and Raymond E. Feist have had their novels adapted into comic book format, which for someone like me who is a huge fan of both speculative fiction and comic books, is a dream come true :) Continuing that trend is Del Rey Manga with Terry Brook’sDark Wraith of Shannara”, an original graphic novel—Terry’s first—that was adapted by Robert Place Napton (Battlestar Galactica: Adama, Saint Angel) and illustrated by Edwin David (Battle of the Planets, ShadowChasers).

Aside from my love of comics and being a long-time fan of Terry Brooks, the main reason I’ve been anticipating this graphic novel is that the story is a continuation from the original Shannara trilogy which holds a special place in my heart. Specifically, “Dark Wraith of Shannara” takes place a few years after “The Wishsong of Shannara” and relives events from the short story “Indomitable” (found in
Robert Silverberg’s anthology Legends II), while following Jair Omhsford on a new adventure that involves rescuing Cogline and Kimber Boh from the clutches of mwellrats and the Croton Witch—a new villain—who seeks the secrets of Paranor

Story-wise, “Dark Wraith of Shannara” is vintage Brooks featuring quests to save loved ones and preventing a great evil from falling over the land, while mixing in plenty of heart-stopping action, themes of family and the dangers of misusing your power, as well as a little romance :) Unfortunately for Terry Brooks fans, we’ve seen all this before. In fact, I believe the graphic novel could be better suited to readers that are new to the author since the story is an excellent example of what you can expect from one of Terry Brooks’ Shannara novels, not to mention the travelogue aspect—including visits to the Highlands of the Leah, Rappahalladran River, the Duln Forests, the Silver River, the Wolfsktaag Mountains, Hearthstone, Olden Moor, Dragon’s Teeth, and Paranor—which is like a comprehensive tour guide of the Four Lands. Of course, while the story may have been a little disappointing, there’s no denying how cool it was to see such familiar geography, fauna (Mwellrats, Spider Gomes, Werebeasts, Kodon) and characters (Jair’s sister Brin, Rone Leah, Allanon, Whisper the moor cat, Slanter and the mighty Weapons Master Garet Jax) brought to life :)

As far as the format, “Dark Wraith of Shannara” is set up like your standard comic book, except of course it’s longer—160 pages divided over five chapters—and features a prologue and numerous extras including a ‘Making Of’ segment and artist sketches. Of the writing,
Robert Place Napton has a lot of experience with comic books which was a positive for the graphic novel. He also happens to be a big fan of Terry Brooks and does a good job of capturing Terry’s voice, while adding his own touches like mixing prose narration with traditional word balloons. What I didn’t like so much was the occasional odd placement of balloons, the somewhat conventional dialogue and how Robert used text to explain certain events when the art would have been more effective. Speaking of which, Edwin David is a Manga-influenced penciler/painter that does a solid job of realizing Terry Brooks’ world and characters, except for struggling a little with the faces and not drawing enough splash pages in my opinion :) I will admit that some of the characters like Allanon and Kimber weren’t quite what I pictured, but it wasn’t a major issue and at least Garet Jax was pretty bad-ass!

No, the thing that bothered me the most about the artwork, and the graphic novel as a whole, was the decision to present it in black & white. Now I don’t have anything against this format which can actually be quite striking, especially with noir-esque stories like Frank Miller’s Sin City, but “Dark Wraith of Shannara” is not noir. It’s fantasy. As such, I’ve always envisioned the Four Lands as this vibrant, colorful world and it only makes sense to me that a Shannara graphic novel would be in color. While the reason for this decision was explained in the extras section, I still don’t agree with it, especially after visiting
Edwin David’s website and seeing how gorgeous his artwork can be when properly inked. In short, I think they made a big mistake in not coloring “Dark Wraith of Shannara”, but hopefully this is an area they will address if they decide to do another Shannara graphic novel.

In the end, I thought Terry Brooks first foray into the world of comic books was a successful one. After all, not only will “Dark Wraith of Shannara” appeal to diehard Brooks fans, but there’s also plenty to enjoy for readers of fantasy as well as comic books. Still, the graphic novel is far from perfect and considering what’s being accomplished today in comic books, “Dark Wraith of Shannara” could have been much better…


Unknown said...

Robert, how is the content? Is it rated R or PG, if you know what I mean? Just curious.

I saw a Terry Prachett (is that the right spelling) at the library and I was shocked. It's not something I would let my 11 year old see, for sure.

Robert said...

It's definitely more of the PG variety. I mean there's some violence, but it's against monsters and there's no cursing, sex, nudity, or anything graphic. I think it might work for your 11-year-old...


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