A review by Hafsa Alkhudairi
Moby Dick is a great American novel, a classic literary piece, and a revenge motivated narrative. Many would rave about the book before even delving into the graphic novel, however, this is the first time I actually finished the narrative. Don’t get me wrong, the story is great and the prose is wonderful, but long winded. Chabouté manages to turn those descriptions and longwinded-ness into a visually captivating narrative that stays true to the canon. Other than that, the conversations between the characters are maintained to preserve Melville’s writing style.
The story of Moby Dick, for those unfamiliar, starts with a young sailor needing a place to sleep. The narrative then concentrates on the sea captain Ahab. He is an obsessive, vengeful man whose sole mission is to hurt an animal. What the visuals add to that is a sense of the racism of the era as well as the aesthetics. Moreover, it adds a foreboding and intensification of problematic insanity. The story reminds me of the sea as well, it is calm at times and at others it intensifies.
The visuals of Moby Dick follow the same pattern. The beginning of each chapter is a calm radiance of a sea-like typeface that floats on top of dialogue free page. The art is not rushed, nor is it action packed. It is quiet and balanced between shadow and light. The visuals are beyond gorgeous for the subtlety it uses to portray a complicated story with complicated emotional interactions. To further the artistic presence, the visuals have a looming presence that produce an awe in the reader. They are an overwhelming presence.
Moby Dick’s stylistic production is just as overwhelming as the visuals. In the introduction, John Acurdi praises the adaptation for its ability to successfully recreate a book that many are unable to in other mediums. I believe this stems from the sea like features I mentioned earlier. It is the pinnacle of what graphic novels can do.
Buy it! I highly recommend this adaptation of Moby Dick by Herman Melville because it is one of the greatest book to graphic novel adaptations I’ve ever seen. It simplifies the narrative structure of the book, yet it stands on its own as a visual-verbal narrative. The story is more digestible and the art, in all it black and white glory, is gorgeous and ethereal. If that is not convincing, the scene where the first whale was killed and used for parts is a great reflection of the eras whaling industry and using the sea as a graveyard.