Dante's Inferno by Hunt Emerson and Kevin Jackson
|Dante's Inferno by Hunt Emerson and Kevin Jackson|
|Genre: Graphic Novels|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: What would appear to be the first version of this classic text in the graphic novel format shows the dynamics of the original, and boosts the scatological and current feel the original must have had into the modern day.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 88||Date: October 2012|
|Publisher: Knockabout Books|
It seems incredibly right, on only the third page of this text, that the Divine Comedy should be transferred to the black and white, cartoonish side of the graphic novel format. Our venturing hero encounters the leopard of malice and fraud, the lion of violence and ambition and the she-wolf of avarice and incontinence, and leaves bemoaning living in a world of symbolism. You could see the beasts illustrated and captioned by name curving alongside their body, just as Hogarth may have displayed them, but no, Emerson goes down the path that is less cartoonish and less newspaper comic strip, and lets the picture and script stay a bit more separate. But later on he is delving into the more blatant, and immediate, by dressing The Furies up as multiple Maggie Thatchers. The good thing about this book is there is reason for everything in it - from the examples of artwork I have described, to the fact both creators claim it to have been influenced by childhood reading of MAD magazine, and a reason the publisher of this untouchable classic is known as Knockabout Books.
Knockabout it may seem, but it reads as quite a bit more sober than the varying page layouts, the multiple use of sound effects and so on, suggest. It's good to say that while this is a book for those who have never read Dante before, it is also a Dante for those who have never read a graphic novel before. The firm, confident black line Emerson provides, looking so much like R Crumb to me at times, in his near-grotesque human faces, shows his abilities to the fore in conveying the diverse scenes and scenarios the two heroes face as they slowly approach Satan. Here are swooping demons, mud (and more) slung by nightmarish weather, and a great range of elements, all brought with a lively bravura and great cinematic vision.
There are also, of course, more madcap sections, forcing through the comical aspects to the work Dante created by featuring well-known and thinly disguised contemporary references. Here they might serve the modern reader less well, so they've been added to in many different ways - I won't need to mention the musical hobby of choice in limbo...
What's changed and what has stayed the same from the original is deftly handled by Kevin Jackson's extended footnote, whose editor has a circle of hell all to themselves for getting all the page references out by two. The very mention of a 'circle of hell' shows how influential the original has been over seven hundred years, and the combination of the two writers here shows why it is has remained, despite the richness of its insular, Christian allegory, such an oft-visited piece. The Inferno is shown here to be a classic that was worth visiting in this fashion, and there's very little scope here for improvement in what they've done. This then is a very nice jumping-off point, whichever angle you approach it from.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
The aforementioned Crumb is of course responsible for an even straighter interpretation of an even older religious classic, in his version of the Book of Genesis.
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