Slaughterhouse-Five, or the Children's Crusade
Story by Kurt Vonnegut; written by Ryan North; illustrated by Albert Monteys
Archaia, 2020

I'm not usually a great fan of adaptations of novels, in movie or graphic form. Too often essential aspects of the original are lost: not just plot simplification, but also characterization. It is rare for an adaptation to retain the feel of the original. But I kept hearing good things about this one, so I gave it a shot.

The first thing you notice is the presence of Kurt Vonnegut's authorial voice. Eisner winning writer Ryan North (Dinosaur Comics, Adventure Time, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl) certainly understands Vonnegut's dark humor, and he also draws liberally from the text of the novel. Spanish artist Albert Monteys (Universe!) provides mostly realistic illustrations, with a cartoon style that is especially effective with facial expressions. It is equally suited to comedy and tragedy (although black comedy is never far away). There are several pulp era comics in the story, which he emulates beautifully. That is clearly one part of the story for which comics are ideally suited.

Of course the story is a modern classic, so it's not surprising so much obvious care was taken in the adaptation. The main formal change was eliminating the chapter numbering of the novel: the narrative covers the same territory, it just moves backwards and forwards in time without announcing the breaks. The visual depiction actually enhances the non-linear storytelling, demonstrating the fact that "Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time." This is not just a great adaptation: it's a great read, which I think could win over readers completely unfamiliar with the novel.

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I don't usually read graphic adaptations of novels, either (well, apart from the occasional Classics Illustrated). the most recent one I bought (earlier this year) was the adaptation of Orwell's Animal Farm, but I haven't read it yet (oh, and the ombibus of Marvel Classic Comics). I almost bought Slaughterhouse Five, having taught it during my "banned books" semester to my college-bound seniors. Also, Tracy read it as part of her 2018 reading challenge. I'll definitely have to consider buying it.

I'm not sure if I'll buy the GN. It's one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors.

I'm a big Vonnegut fan, too, in case that wasn't clear. My favorite is probably Cat's Cradle, but I'm fond of this one too. I doubt I would have bought this myself, but it's available for free on the Hoopla service my local public library offers. Look into it if you haven't: there's a broad collection of graphic novels there, including DC and Image. I like to use the app on my Fire tablet, but there's an online reader as well.

I've read the book and seen the movie; IMHO this is a very good adaption.  Captured the black humor of the original and is true to the non-linear flow of the storyline without making it confusing.

Most importantly, I enjoyed it!

Mark Sullivan (Vertiginous Mod) said:

I'm a big Vonnegut fan, too, in case that wasn't clear. My favorite is probably Cat's Cradle, but I'm fond of this one too. I doubt I would have bought this myself, but it's available for free on the Hoopla service my local public library offers. Look into it if you haven't: there's a broad collection of graphic novels there, including DC and Image. I like to use the app on my Fire tablet, but there's an online reader as well.

Very well said, Glenn! I agree.

Glenn Hakanson said:

I've read the book and seen the movie; IMHO this is a very good adaption.  Captured the black humor of the original and is true to the non-linear flow of the storyline without making it confusing.

Most importantly, I enjoyed it!

Mark Sullivan (Vertiginous Mod) said:

I'm a big Vonnegut fan, too, in case that wasn't clear. My favorite is probably Cat's Cradle, but I'm fond of this one too. I doubt I would have bought this myself, but it's available for free on the Hoopla service my local public library offers. Look into it if you haven't: there's a broad collection of graphic novels there, including DC and Image. I like to use the app on my Fire tablet, but there's an online reader as well.

I also thought that the movie was a good adaptation. My only quibble was that they had the Tralfamadorians invisible/other dimensional. The book describes them as looking like "plumber's friends."

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