Manga Review: Manga Classics: The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe adapted by Stacy King
When I was young, a half century or so ago, there was a line of educational comics called Classics Illustrated. These presented classic public domain works of literature in a comic book format. The art tended to be static and pedestrian, difficult or disturbing plot material got left out, and very little of the stirring language that made these works classics remained. But they read fast, and had helpful pictures for kids not ready to tackle Cliff’s Notes.
There have been several revivals and imitators since then, and currently Udon Entertainment has brought out a line of such works under the group name Manga Classics. The word “manga” is used rather loosely here as the material is neither produced nor created in Japan. The artists do use “mangaesque” art styles, and some of them are at least of Japanese heritage. It will be published in the chunky paperback format familiar to manga fans, and printed to read right to left for aesthetic purposes. The hope is that the sort of kid who enjoys other manga will pick up these volumes.
The current volume retells four of Edgar Allan Poe’s weird stories, and the poem “The Raven.” The strong narrative voice and short length of the works means that nearly the entire prose of the story can be used as word balloons or caption boxes for the illustrated panels.
The collection begins with “The Tell-Tale Heart” in which a murderer explains that he is not insane, just gifted or cursed with sensory sensitivity. The format is used to switch between scenes of the narrator telling his story to a doctor or lawyer (it isn’t clear which) and the narrator’s actions that led up to his imprisonment.
“The Cask of Amontillado” is a tale of the perfect revenge (for what, the narrator never quite makes clear) as a fool is led to his doom by his love of and expertise in wine. The art goes heavy on the screentone.
“The Raven” has a man thinking of his lost love and being tormented by the title bird with its cry of “Nevermore.” The art style makes the man look too young for the tone of the poem, but it’s otherwise a good adaptation.
“The Masque of the Red Death” is about a party held in the last refuge from a plague; the rich and powerful safe and well-fed while the poor die in droves. This one works very well, but suffers a bit from not being in color, since the color schemes play so much into the atmosphere.
“The Fall of the House of Usher” finishes the volume with a long tale of the last dregs of a noble family and their symbolic dwelling place. There are some rather large implausibilities here, but the faces of Usher as he succumbs to madness are well done.
Poe’s masterful writing is the best thing about this volume, but the art is pretty good too. Most recommended for younger teens who enjoy both spooky tales and manga-style illustrations. It seems less likely to appeal to older readers already familiar with the material.
Disclaimer: I was provided a free download of this upcoming book through Netgalley for the purpose of writing this review. No other compensation was requested or offered. There may be changes in the final edition.
Let’s have a trailer for the Vincent Price version of Masque of the Red Death!