Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Illustrated Dracula

Bram Stoker & Jae Lee

This is a good idea. I can see people buying this version of Bram Stoker's classic Dracula, especially the throngs of shoppers in mainstream counter culture stores like Hot Topic. The cover and sparce illustrations may catch the attention of a younger audience not looking for the stuffy old Victorian novel, what with a modern gothic package and faux leather spine. It's an interesting project, if anything, but Penguin's Graphic Classics line already beat Penguin's Viking Studio to it, with covers of books like Upton Sinclair's The Jungle illustrated by a range of acclaimed artists such as Chris Ware and Charles Burns. This line ups the ante a bit, providing thirty some illustrations within by the cover artist (look for its companion The Illustrated Jane Eyre with art by Dame Darcy released in the same fashion).

I really enjoy Jae Lee's work, and his style lends itself well to this sort of project. Inhumans was beautiful, and his recent covers on DC's Manhunter exposed me to him and consequently made me a fan. I'm not quite feeling it so much here, however. A lot of the visuals seemed repetitive. Dracula can only look so cool standing in this pose, and in that pose, with a snarling wolf or bat thrown in to mix it up a bit. There are some stand-out freaky images, particularly the striking long-nailed hand stroking young Mina's beautiful face, and the same girl with a cross necklace held in her teeth, but overall, there's not too much to add to the overall atmosphere of the classic gothic tale. Not enough to make it worth the $22 pricetag at least. It's certainly a fine-looking edition if you don't happen to have this classic in your collection (as I admit, I did not), but you'd have to really appreciate the artist to fork out the extra money for the little art provided in this "Illustrated" edition. I'm currently reading Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray and find that to be more consistently illustrated in its original presentation, and much more entertainingly so, in an edition that cost me $8 at retail price. If you want an "illustrated" Dracula, especially at such a pricetag, I recommend searching out Hippolyte's comic adaptation that really makes the art an integral part of the story.

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