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The Golden Compass: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 (His Dark Materials)

Review

The Golden Compass: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 (His Dark Materials)

Ever since its publication in 1995, THE GOLDEN COMPASS, the first book in Philip Pullman's fantastical trilogy His Dark Materials, has challenged and enthralled readers. Controversially to some, it explores religion and power all the while following its heroine as she comes of age in a mysterious and increasingly dangerous world. This brilliant and provocative novel has been adapted and illustrated by Stéphane Melchior-Durand and Clément Oubrerie in Volume 1 of a three volume graphic novel series.

Set in a world much like our own, THE GOLDEN COMPASS GRAPHIC NOVEL, VOLUME 1 tells the story of young Lyra Belacqua, raised as an orphan at Jordan College in England. Tensions are increasing at the college as explorers and scientists bring back information on “Dust,” a strange and powerful substance. Meanwhile, children are being snatched off the streets by the frightening figures called Gobblers, believed to separate the children from their dæmons, an essential part of themselves physically manifest.

An unexpected visit from her Uncle, Lord Asriel, whose life may be in grave danger, begins a series of events that pull Lyra away from home and close to a simmering battle between power and truth, good and evil. When her best friend Roger is kidnapped by Gobblers, Lyra is devastated but none of the adults around her are listening to her pleas for help. When she is introduced to the smart and charming Mrs. Coulter, she becomes temporarily dazzled and distracted. Mrs. Coulter is a scientist and adventurer and requests that Lyra be allowed to leave the college with her for more experiential education. But Lyra soon grows frustrated with the dull lessons arranged for her and with Mrs. Coulter's empty promises.

THE GOLDEN COMPASS GRAPHIC NOVEL, VOLUME 1 is a great start to a thrilling and thoughtful adventure and Melchior-Durand and Oubrerie do justice to Pullman's contemporary classic.

Before leaving Jordan College, one of the Masters there had given Lyra an enigmatic object, making her promise not to tell Lord Asriel or Mrs. Coulter anything about it. The object is an alethiometer, and at first, Lyra doesn't understand what it does. As she finds herself traveling north with the Gyptians, looking for Roger and other kidnapped children, Lyra learns what the alethiometer does, the power she may have over it and the truth about her parents. Lyra and the Gyptians head toward the Arctic, where they believe the children are being held and tortured. The journey north takes her closer and closer to the Dust and the various powerful factions who will stop at nothing to understand and control it. And, with each page it becomes more clear that Lyra, as Gyptian elder Farder Coram understands, “is no ordinary child.”

 

Pullman's original is dense and complex and while it would be impossible to include all his rich detail in a graphic novel adaptation, Melchior-Durand does a fine job of capturing the essence of the story and Lyra's nature. Oubrerie's illustrations are energetic and show readers Lyra's wide-eyed innocence and her fierce determination. The text is sparse and jumps rapidly from scene to scene, slowing down mostly to highlight the important relationships between characters. The color is subdued, not quite washed out, with tension depicted through facial expressions and shadows. Lacking clarity, however, is the role of the dæmons; how they are connected to their humans, what power they give them and their potential for weakness, as well. It may be that as Lyra gets closer to the Gobblers and the Dust, this important aspect of Pullman's world will be further explained.

Overall, THE GOLDEN COMPASS GRAPHIC NOVEL, VOLUME 1 is a great start to a thrilling and thoughtful adventure and Melchior-Durand and Oubrerie do justice to Pullman's contemporary classic.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on September 22, 2015

The Golden Compass: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 (His Dark Materials)
by Philip Pullman

  • Publication Date: September 22, 2015
  • Genres: Children's, Fantasy, Graphic Novel
  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0553523724
  • ISBN-13: 9780553523720