Twilight: The Graphic Novel

Posted by on March 30th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Twilight: The Graphic Novel; Stephenie Meyer and Young Kim; Yen Press;  $19.99; B&W, Softcover; ISBN: 978-0759529434

Twilight isn’t great any more than the original Superman comics are great. Both are essentially empty-headed wish-fulfillment, though differently inflected — in Superman, boys get to imagine that they are strong enough to save everyone; in Twilight, girls get to imagine that their love is so powerful that it magically makes those they care about safe. The day dream is too blatant to be anything but gauche — but the blatancy is also the power. Like Superman, Twilight has figured out how to give its audience exactly what it wants — and the result is mass enthusiasm, fame, fortune and infinite spin-offs.

I’m on my third iteration of the first Twilight novel myself — I read the book, watched the movie, and have now read the graphic novel (or the first volume of it, anyway.) Each has its own charm. The novel has the courage of its convictions, and the not -inconsiderable grace of its own obliviousness. Stephenie Meyer’s vision is melodramatic and often clueless (Volvos and baseball are the height of hip?), but she believes in it as fervently as Siegel and Schuster thought manly men wore their underwear on the outside, and there’s something about such utter faith that makes you sit up and take notice, even if just to exclaim in disgust. Twilight the movie didn’t have that potent naivete, but it made up for it —like the Superman movie before it — with a touch of camp, a sense of humor largely missing from the source material, and, most importantly, drop-dead gorgeous actors.

Twilight the graphic novel is more like the book than the movie. Indeed, reading it, it’s hard to escape the impression that Twilight should have started out as a manga-fied graphic novel in the first place. It’s true that, without Bella’s narration, and with manga’s faster pacing, both character and plot are much more attenuated than in the novel. Traits that are important in the book — like Bella’s clumsiness, or Jessica’s cattiness — are present only as asides in the GN. Similarly, the plot whips by faster than a sparkly vampire running through the forest — one moment Bella shows up in town, the next she sees Edward, and the next, hey, presto, she’d rather die than be separated from him. Overall, the pacing feels so rushed that I wonder whether you’d actually be able to follow the thing if you hadn’t read the book first — though, of course, everyone who buys the graphic novel has already read the book first, so it’s not really that much of a problem.

In any case, following Twilight isn’t necessarily the point— which is why the graphic-novel treatment feels so natural. In this version of Twilight, people and events largely disappear, and what you’re left with is lovely faces exchanging soulful looks in lingering freeze frames of fractured time. I’m not a huge fan of Young Kim’s art, which exists in an uncomfortable halfway zone between mainstream and manga, and which manages to be both slickly anodyne and clumsy — especially in the clunkily transparent speech bubbles. But…you know, slickly pretty is probably what most readers want from this experience, and Kim’s general instincts to show as many eyes in closeup as feasible seems similarly sound. The graphic novel, in other words, is just the juicy bits— a kind of distilled overheated fanfic version of the original. Since Twilight was essentially an overheated fanfic version of itself to begin with, though, that works out fine.

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