Saturday, March 19, 2011

Girl on Book Action: Nosferatu by Christopher Howard Wolf

Nosferatu by Christopher Howard Wolf, Justin Wayne and Sal Nieto
ISBN: 978-098271177-4


In 1922, the classic film “Nosferatu” gave fear a new face.  F.W. Murnau’s tale of terror, starring the unsettlingly talented Max Schreck, has influenced horror as a genre for many decades to come.

Though his name may be unfamiliar, there are few who would not recognize the visage of the iconic Count Orlok.  He is a mysterious, disturbing being that seems to exist on the fringe of immortality, playing on our most basic fear of the inhuman.

Now, Christopher Howard Wolf, Justin Wayne, and Sal Nieto bring you a revamped version of this classic tale.  With horror, suspense, dark humour, and a touch of action, the Nosferatu graphic novel pays homage to the original masterpiece while expanding the story for a new millennium.


Aside: As Wren promised, I'm here to review the Nosferatu graphic novel as part two of our dual review. You'll be happy to know that I only tortured her a tiny bit for her thoughts on the movie and she should recover in time to write something new for you to read on Tuesday (hopefully, one can never tell for sure with these things). 

My Thoughts:

Now, to re-iterate what Wren told you earlier this week, I’m slowly working my way through my MA and I’m writing my thesis on F.W. Murnau’s iconic 1922 film Nosferatu: Eine Symphonie des Grauens, so the topic is one close to my heart and consistently on my mind.  When I heard that there would be a Nosferatu graphic novel, I cringed, knowing without even seeing the updated plot that it would be...well...campy at best.  I mean, I've spent the past few months dissecting the film and reading article upon article about it.  I was not disappointed.

You might expect me to rip this book apart and offer you nothing but snarky quips, but I'm not going to do that. Why?  Well, because I don’t actually think it's bad and only things that don’t meet my exacting standards get the full treatment of my scorn.  Plenty of things escape my scorn daily: kittens, chocolate, Dragon Age 2, books (obviously), Stash's Orange Spice black tea and apparently a lot of things about this comic, so there you go.  I take the writer at his word when he mentions in his introduction that his tongue is firmly planted in his cheek.  Also, I’m a sucker for a pretty girl with piercings (the same applies to pretty boys with piercings) and the book definitely has those.  And while I’m certainly no expert when it comes to graphic novels (Hey! I've read Sandman! Also: JTHM, Squee and most of Lucifer), I will say that the art in this is nice to look at and very colourful.  I was never confused about what was happening in a given panel, which for a novice such as me is a big deal.  I don’t know how to read these picture books, they don’t have enough words in them and I get confused (Wren wants me to make a Ben Templesmith joke here, but I have no idea what she's talking about, so I won't go there).

Okay, I lied, I have one quip.  I don't think I've ever met anyone with a lip ring who managed to snag it on a fork to the point of bleeding profusely, my own clumsy self included.  So when Tommy Hutter, lesbian photographer extraordinaire, does precisely that I was a bit baffled.  Couldn't she have cut herself with a knife the way all the others who venture to Dracula's castle in all the other adaptations have pretty much done?

Spoiler alert:  I’m going to talk about the updated plot for the next paragraph, so if you want to find out what has changed on your own, I suggest you skip ahead. 

I can’t say that I think the story gained anything through having a lesbian couple, but ultimately it doesn’t detract from it either.  Hutter was a fairly ineffectual male protagonist, but since that is my reading of him, it didn’t sit well with me that in the end, it’s not Elle (apparently the name Ellen isn't "cool" enough so they dropped the "n") who defeats the vampire, but Tommy Hutter.  I also don’t approve of the happy ending.  I think something that the film Nosferatu does well is give a happy ending, but at the cost of Ellen’s life - without her death, the plague will not end and everyone in Wisborg will die.  In this graphic novel, Elle lives, because Tommy and Special Agent Bullner (Dr. Bulwer in the movie I presume) prevent Orlok from draining her completely and they then do battle with the vampire.  Tommy gets him into the elevator and takes it to the roof so the night-creature burns in the sunlight.  The plague ends, Elle survives and everyone lives happily ever after.  I hate that kind of ending.

Here endeth the spoilers.

Vital plot changes aside, the updated version works well enough for what it is: a cheap retelling of a classic tale.  I do pity people who read this graphic novel without ever having seen either Murnau’s film, or Werner Herzog’s 1979 adaptation.  In the end, I think this comic book is a nice novelty item to have if you’re a Nosferatu fan, but aside from that I can’t really recommend that you rush out to read it.  Actually, if you’re reading this post right now and haven’t seen at least one of those movies stop reading right now and remedy that oversight (What is wrong with you?  I’m taking away some of your geekdom points). 

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