Review: Kindred by Octavia E. Butler (writer), Damian Duffy (adaption) and John Jennings (illustrations)

kindredgnbutlerPublished by: Abrams ComicArts
ISBN: 141970947X
ISBN 13: 9781419709470
Published: January 2017
Pages: 240
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Three out of Five

Kindred is easily Butler’s most popular novel – known as the first science fiction written by a black woman. Harsh and intense, it tells the story of a young black woman in the 70s being suddenly transported to the deep south, back in time to when slavery was not only legal, but in full swing. Now released as a graphic novel by Damian Duffy and John Jennings with an introduction by Nnedi Okorafor, we’re brought to the exploration of violence and human rights in quick-to-read and illustrated panels.

First things first – I am yet to read Kindred (in novel form), a fact I’ll be quick to fix. This means I can’t compare how well this adaption has done and whether it’s cut many things out or simplified things, but I can say that the narrative flows well enough, and that while sometimes a few characters seem to have a weird change of heart rather suddenly, maybe that happens in the original novel also, and it’s just showing the struggle the characters experience fighting between what they’re trying to convince themselves is alright, and what the truth actually is.

The artwork, unfortunately, is probably what lets this novel down the most. The cover is beautiful enough, but I must admit that’s where the beauty stops. The majority of the novel is done in angry colours which makes sense – reds, oranges and yellows, but the lines seem to be rushed into shadows and leave little definition to the faces, so it’s quite easy to confuse many of the characters together, particularly the Master and the chap who’s in charge of the slaves. With this also, you don’t get much sense of space (there’s just rooms, really, and you barely see much of them), and the artwork seems to muddy over definition rather than give stark horror and weight to what happens in this very serious story.

Overall, this is a anguished and upsetting story that’s possibly not given the merit it deserves in this format. This will, however, finally get me to clear a weekend to read the novel.

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