Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Murder Mysteries - Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell

This is my first Graphic Novels Challenge 2010 Read.

Murder Mysteries is the graphic novel adaptation of one of Neil Gaiman's short stories that appears in his collection Smoke and Mirrors. I've not read the source material so I can’t comment on how well it transferred to this format but taken by itself I thought it worked nicely.

Murder Mysteries has been on my wishlist for a while and yesterday I was looking at the Graphic Novel section of my library for Classic Graphic Novels mini-challenge (more on that in a few days) and I was very pleased to see it lurking on the shelf! "What's it about?" I hear you ask. Well...

The angels are hard at work constructing the world when one of their own is discovered dead, which prompts Lucifer to dispatch Ragual, Angel of Vengeance, to find the culprit. Hearing about the story of the first ever murder, from a stranger who borrows a cigarette from him, is a young man in contemporary Los Angeles for reasons that are initially unclear but become (slightly!) more so as the story progresses. Interestingly, Ragual’s investigation, and what he uncovers during it, provides the possible rationale for Lucifer’s eventual revolt against God.

In spite of the size of the book, this is a deceptively deep story - which I suppose I should expect from Mr Gaiman. In it's handful of pages it covers some meaty questions* and packages it up in a page turning whodunnit with a great ending. For a great review of this book pop over and visit The Book Smugglers - should have known it was their fault it ended up on my wishlist in the first place!

The adaptation to comic book was carried out by P. Craig Russell (who by coincidence also provided the artwork for the book I will be reading for the classic graphic novel challenge) and I really like his style. Very elegant, simple and with a lovely colour palette – I especially liked the very stylised images of the
City where the angels live and work.

If I am honest, I’m not sure I’d have been as pleased with this book if I’d bought it unseen in hardback (which is quite hard to do as it seems to be out of print) as it is a very slim volume indeed. Given I borrowed it, I can’t but be delighted with the value for money and I very much enjoyed the unexpected story of an Angel of Vengeance. I really should get around to reading the Sandman books this year...

* Like the concept of free will v. pre-determination - now that brings back some ancient memories about my history of medieval political thought classes!

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