Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell, Coraline (HarperCollins, 2008)

Originally published in 2002, Coraline has seen life as a Dave McKean-illustrated novel, an audiobook read by Gaiman himself, an upcoming stop-action animated feature film, and now as a graphic novel. Readers who haven't read the original novel should start there before diving into the graphic novel, if only to understand how brilliantly Coraline translates into this new format. And brilliant it definitely is.

There's always a concern when a novel is adapted for any new media that something will be lost, that atmosphere and meaning will fail to carry over, especially when words are stripped away and replaced by images which can differ from those evoked by the original text. No need for such worries, in this case. Gaiman's story about a plucky young girl who learns that there are far, far worse things than being bored is every bit as evocative here as in the original.

Russell has trimmed down Gaiman's prose to its bare essence and paired it with his wonderfully detailed color artwork to breathe new life into this clever fantasy story. While Russell's artwork doesn't have the quite the otherworldly feel of McKean's original black and white illustrations, it does effectively capture the creepiness of the world on the other side of the parlour door, particularly the ethereal nature of the house's grounds and soulless button eyes of its inhabitants. Coraline herself is beautifully realized, her youthful face reflecting a myriad of emotions as her mundane life slips away into something horrific and she must rely on her wits to return everything to its proper place.

Coraline the graphic novel succeeds on all levels: it's gorgeous to look at and entertaining to read.

[April Gutierrez]

P. Craig Russell's Web site is here, and Gaiman's thisaway, and
HarperCollins' Coraline page can be found over here.