Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Review: Marvel's Sense and Sensibility

In continuation of Austenprose's Sense and Sensibility Bicentary Challenge I chose for my second book, Marvel's Sense and Sensibilty graphic novel adapted by Nancy Butler and illustrated by Sonny Liew.  As an art historian I tend to categorize myself as a "visual person" so the idea of a comic book version of any Austen work was very appealing.  I am happy to report the Marvel creation did not disappoint.
In her lovely introduction, Butler discusses the challenges of adapting dialogue-rich novel into an entertaining, yet concise comic.  In the history of comic books, many tend to focus on action rather than dialogue and Austen's work tends to focus on inner-turmoils of characters (among other things) we have come to understand as a readers instead of a black and white message.  So to combine the two elements, while still staying true to each is not something that can be produced quickly, it takes a lot of care.  I think Butler and Liew succeeded in this endeavor despite Butler noting her anxiety that it would not stand-up to some Janites' high (nit-picking) standards.  Like movie adaptions some details must be lost but the most important are still contained in this illustrated tale.
The artwork by Liew was beautiful and historically accurate (Some of the illustrations in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies weren't and that drove me nuts!).  One of his special touches was to make the characters go into chibi form (a technique from manga and anime to display childishness) to visually indicate that some ridiculous characters were in play (cough cough, John and Fanny Dashwood, cough, the Miss Steeles).  Although old farts like myself, whose anime vocabulary doesn't expand beyond Sailor Moon may find this technique a bit odd and disrupting I think it computes to younger readers who are more exposed to it.  And shouldn't we expose young audiences to Jane as early as possible?  Marvel's Sense and Sensibility could just be that gateway drug to Jane Austen!
I think any Janite who has long-loved the worlds Jane Austen has painted will enjoy this visual read, it was well-worth the $7 I paid for it.  As noted above, I think Marvel Illustrated Sense and Sensibility would be a great gift for your manga-hoarding middle school niece just looking for an escape route from the norm.  Now all I need is the Marvel Illustrated Pride and Prejudice and to get to work on writing to Marvel to request some Mark Twain adaptions as well.


  1. Wow! The moment I saw the word "Anime" I was glued to the page.
    But seriously, that seem's awesome, and the illistrations that you show are well drawn.
    Deffinetly something that i have to check out! :D

  2. Thanks for this. I loved their version of Pride & Prejudice, so I'm happy to discover that the Sense & Sensibility is just as good.

  3. Gateway drug to S&S! *snort* Love that phrase. I appreciate your thoughtful review. Trained as a designer, I am visual too and I really liked the illustrations. Nancy Butler need not fear me as a picky Janeite. I read it and promise not to throw stones.