Graphic Classics has now done more than a dozen comic collections adapting the works of great writers, and each one has been highly entertaining and quite affordable ($12) for the amount of story contained in each volume. Their most recent entry, devoted to the work of Rafael Sabatini, is no exception to this trend.
As usual, I will refrain from judging the stories themselves, as that falls upon the long deceased Mr. Sabatini, not the good folks at Graphic Classics (who were so kind as to send me a copy of this volume), who WILL be judged on how well they adapt the stories (although this volume has a rare exception to this rule!).
The volume opens (after a stunning painted cover by John F. Naprstek) with a nice illustration by Hunt Emerson of a pirate song by Sabatini.
The first adaptation was a fine choice by editor Tom Pomplun, as it is the origin story of Sabatini’s most popular character, Captain Blood. The story was adapted by Rod Lott, with art by Carlo Vergara. The story is good, although it takes a whopping FORTY pages to adapt (which is an eternity for a Graphic Classics story), so perhaps there could have been some corners cut. The art by Vergara is good by itself, but in a sequential sense, I believe it loses some flair. There are moments where he stands out, but for the most part, I think his work needs some more polish. I noticed in the credits that this is his first published work in the US, and I wish him the best. He certainly has some talent – it just needs to be honed a bit.
The second story is a depatured for Graphic Classics, but one that I think is quite helpful for a work like this. Writer Mort Castle writes “Desperately Seeking Sabatini,” a biography of Sabatini, which is most useful for a writer who many readers are unfamiliar with, and I am sure more than a couple of readers would ask “Why am I reading a comic devoted to this guy?” Kevin Atkinson provides very nice artwork to go with Castle’s accomplished narrative of Sabatini’s life.
Pomplun himself adapts the next story, with unique art by Stanley Shaw. It is a mystery that Pomplun manages to translate to the comic form with ease. Sabatini is clearly vibing on Poe here, and Shaw’s artwork manages to evoke a little bit of Poe, as well. I really enjoyed it.
The highlight story for me, though, was the next story, also adapted by Tom Pomplun, with artwork by Roger Langridge (my fav’rit). I am so pleased that Graphic Classics continues to use Langridge, as he is both an excellent artist, and an excellent SEQUENTIAL artist. He manages to tell the story of a spirtualist (and perhaps swindler) so well, that it is just a joy to read.
Perhaps because of the high standards set by Langridge’s work, the next story, drawn by longtime inker Gerry Alanguilan (and also adapted by Pomplun) tends to glow a little less bright. The story is similar in plot to the Langridge story, except not as charming, or as well told, I believe. Alanguilan’s art is at times utterly gorgeous, but also a bit stiff.
Milton Knight brings his own sense of flair to his story, a tale of a Jester making the ultimate sacrifice for love. Knight’s stories are like little universes to themselves, and are a lot of fun to see his crazy style of art take hold, and still effectively tell a story.
Antonella Caputo adapts the next story, with art by Jackie Smith. The adaptation by Caputo is good, as is the case usually for Caputo’s work in Graphic Classics, by Jackie Smith’s art left me a bit disappointed. There was some good work involved, but at times, it almost seemed like Smith took the easy route, layout-wise, not committing to drawing the best panels and more making it look like characters thrown together – almost like a collage of individual drawings, rather than a natural feel.
Finally, Pomplun adapts one last story, with art by Rich Tommaso, challenges Langridge for best illustrated story. The story itself is fairly blah (about thirty pages for a story that seemed to deserve only fifteen), and I would have like Pomplun to choose a better one, but Tommaso’s art makes the story worth the time. I remember thinking, “Well, at least I get to see more Tommaso art!” His individual work is cartoonish and sparse, while still evoking feeling and emotions quite well, and his storytelling was top notch. A real treat for the eyes.
All in all, this is yet another winner for Graphic Classics, although perhaps less impressive than some of their previous efforts. Still, the volume is worth it for Langridge and Tommaso alone!
You can buy the comic at Graphic Classics website here.