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Review: Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures - Graphic Novel by Laurell K. Hamilton

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter: Guilty PleasuresAnita Blake, Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first impression was that the opening frame is pretty perfect, it's a pale woman with wild hair, not overly exaggerated boobs and hips but very feminine and very strong, with a gun, and a funny zombie and penguin tee-shirt. It's Anita. It was a good first impression. 

It had been so long since I read the earlier books in the series that I didn't remember the plot of this book almost at all, it was fun to go back to the beginning and revisit this early Anita and see how everything got started. And because I forgot that these graphic novel adaptations were coming out I was able to get the complete twelve-part series to read all in one very lovely hard cover edition from my library. This edition would definitely make a good gift for fans of the print books or the graphic novel series (a prequel came out already and several more books have come out since this one as well), it's quite a good adaptation of the story and the artwork overall is how I imagined things. 

As I said, overall I liked the art. Anita was pretty but not too comic-book exaggerated. It is an on-going theme in the books that she has hips and and a chest, so that needed to be represented here, but it was done in a classier way, not a hootchy sexed-up comic book way. I did like the drawing for her better in the second half of the book after the new artist took over though. In the first have there were just too many times where she looked sad and dewy-eyed, or big-eyed and innocent. I like that she had some vulnerability and and hurt feelings, and fear and worry for her friends, she shouldn't have been Anger Girl all of the time, but the big-eyed innocent looks just didn't work when she should have looked pissed, determined, angry, murderous, scared, etc. it was too cute. The faces in the second half might not have been quite as pretty overall but the expressions were better and that's more important to me. 

And both Anita and Jean-Claude's beautiful heads of hair and curls in their faces were a little overdone, especially in the first half and on the cover. It's pretty in an almost tattoo style, but too frequent and distracting. At a glance I frequently thought they had bugs crawling on their faces. And there was that one curl that's constantly between Anita's eyes, that was irritating, I'm surprised a woman didn't point that out in the read-throughs and make them change it. Any real woman would just brush it away, she'd never let her hair tickle between her eyes like that for so long, it would annoy her to feel 
more than it bugged me to see it. And Anita isn't a normal woman, visibility is important to her, she wouldn't allow hair in her face that could obscure her vision. It's a small thing, but it's in so many scenes, it almost became a joke, it was very distracting.

Most of the other characters look pretty much how I imagined them. Dolph looks younger than I imagined, but about the same. Edward was about right, maybe a little too good looking, he's supposed to be more average to blend in. But it's the comics, after all, they like people to have an edge. Ronnie, Luthor, Phillip, Malcolm. Irving, all really close to how I'd imagined them. The only surprise was Raphael, the king of the rats, who I'd imagined much older and handsome in a more debonair way, I guess; I didn't expect him to be a young hottie. I thought he'd be a slimmer, more mature man. But the batting record is pretty good, considering that these adaptations usually leave the reader pretty dissatisfied with most of the "casting." It's clear how much Hamilton was involved in making sure that the books really reflected her vision of the story and it says something about her writing that it seems to be pretty consistent with so many of the readers' visions as well, her imagery must have been pretty powerful if so many of us are in agreement about how things should look. 

As for the story, it stuck very tightly to the novel. They did a good job of adapting a long book to short episodes and still managing to convey a lot of information. It may be somewhat confusing to newbies, but if they're more used to the graphic novel format then perhaps it won't bother them. I'm still having some trouble grasping the format, although this was a pretty wordy and well-explained graphic novel, so I didn't miss much. 

It was interesting to me to contrast this book to the Wizard of Oz graphic novel I just read. There really was a clear attempt here to contrast the lovely elements with the horror, both with the text and the visuals. Hamilton really wanted to show that all that glitters is not gold, to show the hidden darkness beneath some things that present themselves as beautiful and safe. The art reflected this contrast very well. They got the idea across much more than the Oz artist did, one of my complaints about that book. And this book knew the audience it was catering to better as well. It was kind of funny that they could have vampires and gore and people killed by guns,
and stakes and lots of violence, but you can't say "shit", it's "#%@$" because it might be classified as a YA book (like the one I borrowed was) and swearing is no-no in teen graphic novels, I guess. 

So of someone asks why they should read this if they've already read Guilty Pleasures, I'd say that it's a different perspective on the story. Seeing it visually makes you notices things that can only be described in the print book. You see that Anita is shorter than the men she has to question. You see her scars, there day in and day out, whether she wants them to be seen or not. You see her femininity, easy to forget a bit when she's just a cypher on a page. And you see the penguins and the funny tee-shirts, a good contrasts with Anita's tough side. I definitely think that fans of the early Anita books will enjoy this if they get a chance to check it out.

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