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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Review: Artemis Fowl - The Eternity Code: The Graphic Novel

Of all of the books in the Artemis Fowl series, the third book, The Eternity Code, was never one of my particular favorites. I mean, I like all of the books to one degree or another, and I'll be the first to defend The Eternity Code as a darn good book, but it's probably my fourth or fifth favorite of the eight installments, and my least favorite of the front half of the series. You know, the good ones. All that said, I had high hopes for the graphic novel version of The Eternity Code. The graphic novel renditions of Artemis Fowl and Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident were nothing short of stellar. Heck, Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel was what got me into the series in the first place! What could the third in a series of exceptional adaptations be but another unparallelled success?

You'd be surprised.

The basic plot of The Eternity Code is that Artemis uses reverse-engineered fairy technology to make a mini-supercomputer called "the C-Cube," which is basically an very clunky iPhone with some fancy gimmicks. He then tries to extract some money from an Evil Billionaire Industrialist named Jon Spiro in exchange for holding back the technology for a year. Unlike the majority of Artemis' plans, it doesn't go well, Butler is severely wounded, Haven City goes into lockdown, and it all leads up to Artemis having to team up with Holly, Juliet Butler, and Mulch to get the cube back. It's essentially the caper, that is, the heist.

The main problem with The Eternity Code: The Graphic Novel is that is doesn't trust the source material enough to float the story. Some of the book's most memorable moments and scenes are either heavily reduced or cut entirely. Ice Age Cryogenics? One panel. The Inkblot Tattoo Parlor? Two panels and a phone call. Loafer's relocation? One panel. The chapter dealing with Arno Blunt's fate? One. Flipping. Page. As a result, what could have been a fun adventure story filled with lots of scenes which were cool, funny, or awesome is instead a story which has none of those traits. The entire point of a graphic novel, the entire point of sequential art, is to combine literary storytelling with visually interesting images. When it's an adaptation of a book, this point is only compounded. A graphic novel adaptation of a book spells out what the author of the original thing had in mind when he wrote it, so as to give the readers a clear idea of what he was describing by providing a literal picture of it, while at the same time retelling the story in a visually interesting manner.

In this case, Colfer and his collaborators apparently felt the need to rearrange perfectly good scenes, eliminate or reduce others, and generally rush the whole process. Considering how long it took to get this dang thing to print, I can't believe they spent this much time and effort to produce something which has none of the emotional impact of the original, and instead pulls out all the stops to set up The Opal Deception. I just don't get how they had enough sense of detail to get the look of Chicago police officer's hats right, but didn't have the foggiest idea of how to tell the story like it originally was. Instead of the very cool looking LEP files that we got about the characters in the first two installments, we get clunky expository dialogue and one file on Jon Spiro. We could have gotten a file on the Chicago Outfit, a file on Loafers, a file on Arno Blunt, maybe another on Madame Ko. But we don't get any of that. Because of all of these things, the story suffers.

My other major complaint about this graphic novel involves the art. It's not that it's bad so much as that it's ill-suited for the story. It's just too busy. All of the new human character look ugly, none of them look like I envisioned, and Carla Frazetti wears a fedora for goodness sake. What is she, some kind of hipster mafioso? There's also the set-pieces. In the last two graphic novels, the art fit the organic, natural feel of the story. The dusty streets of Saigon, the green hills of Ireland, the icy tundra of north Russia. Haven City. In this book, we are treated to portions of London; Haven City; layovers in Tunisia and Ethiopia; and finally, Chicago, where the bulk of the book's back half takes place, with bits and pieces of Ireland tossed in. Giovanni Rigano's rendering of Chicago wasn't particularly good, probably because the cityscape wasn't the artist's forte. His style just isn't suited for it. On the whole, the art sorrowfully clashes with what we're going for. Also, the cover looks bland and generic. Thought I'd throw that out.

In sum, I fail to understand exactly why this book wound up like this. We had the same winning creative team (Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin, Giovanni Rigano, and Paolo Lamanna) and great source material, but instead we wound up with a weak, halfhearted imitation of the original. In some places, it's like the creators didn't even care, like when all of those scenes I mentioned were cut short, or when they resused panels from the previous books. That's just lazy. It's like Colfer and company were heckbent on plowing through this book as fast as possible so they could get to The Opal Deception. I for one believe that The Opal Deception was the best book in the whole series, but if this graphic novel is any indication of what the adaptation for that book is going to be, I can only shudder at what will come. At least they didn't sex-up Holly again like they did in the last two books, because that sure got Colfer and crew some heat, and in hindsight, I feel the same way. All I can say is that if Colfer is so eager to get to The Opal Deception, then it had better be worth it. At the rate he's going though, it won't be here until 2018, by which time we might finally have an Artemis Fowl movie! Maybe by then I'll have forgotten this monstrosity. Not that I need the help.

RATING: 5.5/10

Image courtesy of artemisfowl.wikia.com