When “The Wheel of Time” was first published, my attention was elsewhere. I like some of the genre sometimes referred to as the “big fat fantasy” (because of the length of the books), but in 1990 I was too busy with authors like Tad Williams, before later moving onto new series by Kate Elliott and George R.R. Martin. So as the popularity of “The Wheel of Time” series grew, I ended up curiously immune from it all, something that gave me a good vantage point as I watched some friends burn out on the series one by one.
But still, I’ve wondered at times if I would’ve been hooked had I picked up the first book in the series, “The Eye of the World,” so this comic adaptation of the book seemed like a good a way as any to figure that out. So while I don’t know how much or little Chuck Dixon brought to the adaptation, I’m going to judge it primarily as a work of Robert Jordan’s. The good news? The opening pages of “The Eye of the World” are probably the best in the comic, with a young girl being watched by a raven as she gathers water, and how she and her fellow children listen to the opening moments of a story from an adult. It’s nothing out of the ordinary in terms of plot, but the narration is told in an enticing way, one that made me see quickly how Jordan was able to grab his audience early on. It’s atmospheric and, to top it off, Chase Conley’s art is also strong here, reminding me a bit of Joshua Middleton’s debut on “Meridian” back in the day.
The bad news, though, is that the book shifts to a second prologue immediately afterwards and utterly lost me in the process. I understand that it’s providing back story to the fight between good and evil, because it has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. All it’s missing is a few, “Muahahahahahas!” from the man in black and it would hit all the needed cliches. Even after it’s over, the issue never really recovers; the mysterious stranger coming to town in search of a young hero feels so tired and old hat that it’s hard to keep your attention focused. Characters throw out strange terms left and right out of context, and it feels more like someone who’s read the first chapters of “The Fellowship of the Ring” one too many times. Even Conley’s art isn’t quite as strong here; it’s not quite as lush and smooth, with too-thick ink lines and a slight flatness. I’m not sure what exactly caused such a shift in even the visuals, but comparing the front and the back of the book makes you wonder if there’s a missing credit for a different inker on some of the pages.
“Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time: The Eye of the World” is the perfect title for this comic, because it sums up its contents quite nicely. It’s overall clumsy and trips over its own feet, but if you trim it down to just a small piece you can find a real winner. Maybe if I’d read “The Eye of the World” I’d be more gripped by this adaptation, but as a new reader despite the early strength it just falls flat.