In this review, I’ll be taking a look at two new graphic novels out this month: Dark Tales: The Hound of the Baskervilles and Legend of Sumeria.
Dark Tales: The Hound of the Baskervilles
The new Dark Tales imprint of graphic novels from Canterbury Classics are adaptations on classic pieces of fiction that, unsurprisingly, trend toward the dark and mysterious.
Is there anything comics can’t do? I found this take on the classic Sherlock Holmes “whodunit” to be as engaging and exciting as the 1939 Basil Rathbone film version. This is due in large part to the artwork by Dave Shephard.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is presented in a way that makes it accessible to readers that may otherwise shy away from the original prose. Admittedly, I found the original text to be a bit… dry.
Since this graphic novel is part of the Dark Tales imprint, a certain atmosphere was expected to come along with it. Shephard balances the tone of the book well and creates a mood through effective use of splash panels and clean line work.
Baskerville itself is presented as an ominous structure whenever it appears, rendered in deep black and midnight blue. There’s even the obligatory “creepy tree branches” included in these panels.
This adaptation should be easy for readers of any age to pick up and enjoy. The case can be made that people need to be reminded of a time when Sherlock Holmes wasn’t Benedict Cumberbatch (or even Iron Man) and Dark Tales could be a key piece of that reminder.
Legend of Sumeria
After a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2017, the collected edition of Legend of Sumeria has been brought to print. Billed as a blending of “hard science genetics and sci-fi adventure,” the graphic novel shoots for the stars (and maybe even the next universe) but falls quite a bit short.
While holding the printed edition, I cannot deny that it’s a very polished, slickly produced, epic tome. It clocks in somewhere north of 200 pages, so reading the book is not something to be taken lightly. However, I found the plot of the book to be a bit impenetrable even after a second read-through.
The story is set in the near future, when a biotech company launches SEQ. Their invention is a social network integrated into the very genetics of humanity. For everyone thinking “Boy, I thought Facebook was hard to get away from NOW!” I think you’re on the right track. Sumeria is asking some big questions and co-creator and scientific director Dr. Biju Parekkadan’s background in biotechnology research is clearly on display here.
The book suffers because it tries to blend the “hard science” aspect with the rather mature story it’s trying to tell. At one point late in the book, a character exclaims “BRUCE IS NOT YOUR AVERAGE PHENOTYPE” while violently smashing two soldier’s heads together. I will fully admit to having to consult my dictionary for the definition of “phenotype.” I long ago jettisoned the knowledge of my college biology courses and replaced them with Stargate SG-1 reruns.
Legend of Sumeria is also an interactive experience as the book notes at the end of the first chapter. I haven’t had a chance to experience the interactive book in 3D, but the artwork in the book appears to have been produced with that in mind. In my experience, most motion comics are adapted from your standard static comic images with motion effects added later.
The production of this book would seem to indicate that the reverse was applied for the artwork. It was rendered in 3D with multiple moving aspects then squished down into a static image. There were a few instances where any sense of motion that should be implied by sequential artwork was completely lost. Characters are often stiff and featureless, and as a result, I had a hard time keeping track of who’s who due to the absence of any defining characteristics.