Saturday, 21 February 2015

Ember: The Novel Was A Shining Adventure, The Graphic Novel... A Little Dim

A Review By: Amelia

At some point in the last two decades or so, humanity has stopped seeing the future as a shining utopia but instead as a decaying and frightening dystopia that must be survived, endured instead of enjoyed. Ember falls into the latter category and it’s an amazing take on the concept.

The City of Ember is doomed. It was created hundreds of years ago but those known only as the Builders. It contained everything needed for human survival and it worked... for a time. The storerooms are almost out of food, corruption is spreading, and the generator that supplies the electricity is on the brink of stopping and never coming back on. But hope is revived for two children, Lina and Doon, when they discover a parchment that could be the way out of Ember. But can they decipher it before the lights go out forever?

The original author of The City of Ember is Jeanne DuPrau. She received a BA in English Literature from Scripps College in California and before penning The City of Ember series, she was a high school English teacher and an editor for educational publishing companies. The adapter of the book into the graphic novel is Dallas Middaugh, who is a comics industry veteran turned teacher who writers for Bleeding Cool about his new course at NYU; and Nikals Asker, a Swedish comic book artist best known for his debut graphic novel Second Thoughts.

The art style of Ember is a plain one. Not simple, not minimalistic, just plain. Plain and so, so boring! The characters have no depth and very little emotions, the surroundings are drab and completely unvaried. Some might argue that the landscapes are meant to be that way since the novel takes place in a huge, completely dark cave, but I don’t feel like even that covers the laziness in this art! The colours all run together like mud, and (getting back to the characters) why are their complexions so dark? If they’ve never known ultra violet light, they live in the dark aside from artificial light bulbs, and they were all coloured to have tanned skin! I don’t know if this was done to try and convey the shadows of Ember, but it just didn’t work for me.

While the novel The City of Ember was so fascinating in its bleakness and claustrophobia, the graphic novel just doesn’t compare. Ember is a place where that old saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ doesn’t apply. The pressure of the all-encompassing blackness of the city doesn’t translate from word to picture because you need light for pictures! You can have a whole chapter dedicated to darkness in a book but to do that in something where the medium is pictures is near–if not totally–impossible.

My final thoughts on the graphic novel Ember are that it’s a little lackluster, a touch mediocre. The
novel was a much better medium to describe the bleakness of Ember even though you’d think a graphic novel would be good for that. Unfortunately the dark doesn’t seem that imposing in the graphic novel as a single panel will be in darkness and then the next panel just mentions how long that blackout was. It just doesn’t translate well. Not to mention that so many of the major plot points were simply grazed over or not mentioned at all. It took away the sense of urgency you get from the novel and it just makes it mediocre. Give it a shot if you loved the books (it only takes about half an hour to read) but if you’re unfamiliar with the books and instead looking for a good graphic novel avoid this one. You’d probably have a more entertaining time sitting in the dark and just pretending you’re in Ember!

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