Writer: Santiago García
Artist: David Rubín
A review by Anelise Farris
The recently released English translation of Santiago García and David Rubín’s graphic adaptation of Beowulf adheres closely to the basic plot of the epic poem: Beowulf, the poem’s protagonist, is a young Geatish warrior that sails to Denmark to save King Hrothgar and his men from the monstrous beast named Grendel. In the process, Beowulf also ends up battling Grendel’s mother. And, while in the beginning of Beowulf’s heroic adventures he is motivated primarily by personal gain and glory, towards the end of his life and a final battle with a dragon, Beowulf proves himself to be heroic for other reasons as well.
This is a story that most will remember having read (or been assigned to read, at least!) in high school. However, other than following the familiar plot, García and Rubín’s Beowulf is anything but conventional. Because Beowulf is a long narrative poem that was traditionally shared orally, it lacks detail—and this is precisely where García and Rubín shine. From the first page and the long series of wordless panels, I felt that I was in the world of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing—with the detailed scenery and the beautiful, evocative colors amidst the gruesome horror. And, as if the flow of García’s prose and Rubín’s haunting art is not enough to praise about their adaptation, there are also some fantastic, alternative panel layouts that help to communicate the story of Beowulf in an entirely new and complex way.
Beowulf is a story that is no stranger to adaptation; there have been movies, novels, and quite a few graphic adaptations of the tale. However, quantity definitely does not indicate quality. Beowulf is a surprisingly difficult story to translate into a visual medium, and as someone familiar with (and a fan of!) both García’s and Rubín’s work, their adaptation of Beowulf exceeds expectations and truly displays the range of their abilities as storytellers and artists.
Buy it! Maybe you aren’t a fan of epic poetry. Maybe you avoided reading Beowulf in your high school English class. Remedy that right now by picking up García and Rubín’s Beowulf, and you won’t be sorry. This is a gorgeous, well-written adaptation that breathes some new life into one of humanity’s oldest heroes.