Bruce's Reviews > King Lear

King Lear by Gareth Hinds
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May 30, 11

Read in May, 2011

This is the most successful adaptation of Shakespeare to the graphic medium that I have read. Wisely, Hinds keeps large parts of the original dialog so the poetry and the passion of the play are undiluted. In supplementary notes at the end of the text he explains his choices.

To the text he has added superlative composition. Dialog is presented in a script typeface of his own design that’s clear to read and complementary to the composition. For most of the work he either adapts or abandons the traditional comic panels. He uses line—sometimes a dotted line to indicate the path of a character across the page—to move readers’ eyes through the story. So the most emotionally charged scenes brilliantly swirl and hurl across the page. Towards the end of the book watercolor washed illustrations contrast with adjacent sharply inked lines to highlight the King and Cordelia, at first in his joy at being found by her and reconciled and then in his overwhelming grief at her death.

Hinds also uses the graphic medium to produce an effect that would not be possible in a stage production, a panorama. The first use is static. Lear’s castle is shown in the dark and from a distance on page 11 to close the first scene. More action is introduced on page 23 the reader sees Edmund at first conferring with Curan on the center left of the page and then below laying in wait to deceive his brother who is approaching from a dark path on the right side of the page, all this done in a single dark blue and green full page panel. But the more engaging use of the effect begins on page 32 Gloucester is pleading with Cornwall not to put Kent in the stocks in a panel on the upper left, immediately to the right in a circular panel Cornwall proceeds to do so anyhow. This panel is outlined in a large red circled connected to the same action in smaller scale in the large, more than half page panel below as Edgar emerges from the hole high in the tree in which he has been hiding and views the scene from afar. In the following full page to the right he strips himself down against a plain white background to transform himself into mad Tom. On the next page (again a full-page panel) he slips over the wall to escape as Lear and his company approach in the background. On page 38 the swirling winds of the upcoming storm dominate the page as Edgar creeps away and Cornwall and Regan approach to confront the enraged Lear. Nine pages later, tiny white outlines of Lear, Kent and the Fool stand beneath the lighting flash and a great “KRAKOOOM!” of thunder. A dramatic double page spread of the clash of the British and French armies sweep across pages 94-95, a scene that necessarily happens off stage in the play.
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