A new take on old classics

These days I find myself watching films and reading books I normally would not have gravitated towards. Of course, this is entirely due to my collaboration on the graphic novel Chronicles of the 2nd Dark Age. I’m new to this world of visual narrative and I find it intriguing.

Last night I watched Appleseed Alpha, a computer-animated, science fiction, cyberpunk film. Against my expectations, I really enjoyed watching it. Daniel had been looking forward to seeing it, and I was curious when I discovered it had been done by the creator of Ghost In Shell, Shirow Masamune,

The story is set in a dystopian, 22nd century New York City. A young woman, Deunan Knute, and cyborg partner, Briareos are forced into servitude by the Machiavellian Two Horns, warlord of the city, who commission the two to destroy combat machines.

During the skirmish, they meet Iris and Olson who are both on a mission of their own.

Deunan and Briareos befriend them and decide to join their mission. Iris is assigned with preventing the evil cyborg Talos from obtaining a secret weapon humans were building.

Iris and Olson are captured by Talos. He murders Olson and uses Iris to reactivate the war machine. Deunan and Briareos form an unlikely alliance with Two Horns to rescue Iris. Talos is killed by Duenan and the young Iris, who ultimately sacrifices herself to destroy the machine and save New York City.

The computer graphics in Appleseed Alpha are exquisitely done, from the cyborgs, machines, and weapons, to the humans and the super realistic landscape of the dystopian city.

Disappointingly, I found a disconnect between the quality of the art and the plot and narrative of the story. The plot was thin and predictable. I got the impression that the narrative had been created gratuitously, as an afterthought, to carry the visual narrative rather than enhance it.

I would have to be lying if I said I didn’t find it entertaining if only for the visual delight it offers. Perhaps its value lies in just that. It is meant to entertain and visually it ticks all the boxes. I do believe it has greater potential with regard to narrative and character development and therein lies my disappointment.

New to the series I was surprised to discover that Deunan and Briareos had been romantically involved as it did not come across. I felt that more emotion was conveyed by the cyborg Briareos then the androgynous Deunan who treats him as a beloved pet, fondly but with little real depth. This as opposed to the only time she displays real emotion upon meeting Iris, towards whom she reacts most affectionately and protectively. Released in 2014, the film received a PG – 13 rating due to action, violence, and sexual reference, but it will definitely be enjoyed by both old and young.

Daniel pointed out to me that despite my preconceptions, graphic novels nowadays are being used as a tool to educate as well as entertain, using this very successful format to deliver school curriculum classics ranging from Shakespeare and the Brontë sisters to Oscar Wilde and Mary Shelly’s masterpiece of gothic horror, Frankenstein.

A shining example of this can be seen in the work of John M. Burns, who also worked on Judge Dredd among other things. He did the beautiful hand-painted watercolour artwork for Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. The art will capture and hold the interest of any reader while staying true to the original narration through authentic text and dialogue. These graphic novels encourage new or younger readers to enjoy classic literature albeit repackaged in a thrilling new way.

Literary titles in the Classical Comics range stay true to the original authors’ visions while at the same time offering alternative text versions to cater for the needs of different readership skill levels. “Quick Text” simplifies the dialogue for younger or inexperienced readers and even mature readers who need a quick introduction. I am so excited about this as I have friends and family members who suffer from Dyslexia and graphic novels have opened up a whole new world to them. Do yourself a favour and check out www.classicalcomics.com to see what they have on offer. Good literature combined with good art.

Who would have thought my casual primary school encounters with Archie comics would lead me to this. I realise I have just glimpsed the tip of the iceberg but this new journey of mine promises to shatter my biases and take me to wondrous new places.

Author: Nanieve Groenewald

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