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Friday, 19 August 2011

In Review: Wuthering Heights

By Emily Brontë
Adapted by Sean Michael Wilson (script), John M. Burns (Art), Jim Campbell (Letters)
Publisher: Classical Comics
Out: Now:


The Book: Emily Brontë's only novel is famous the world over and is the favourite classic of many readers. It is easy to see why, with hardship, insanity, cruelty, frustrated love, and ghosts. What more could anyone want from a book?

The Review: All right, confession time: I have never read Wuthering Heights as a novel, for all its worldwide reknown. It's known for being a complex tale of mental and physical cruelty but as far as I'm concerned, the Brontës are up their with Thomas Hardy as hard going, reading-wise. When it comes to classic writing, give me Dickens or Marlowe.

So I suppose on that basis, I'm the perfect reader for this new Classical Comics adaptation, even though it's a story that has been adapted into comic form many times, most recently by Classical Comics but in the past by Classics Illustrated (a hardback edition of their version is due out at the end of this month) and and Graffex, that edition featuring art by Nick Spender. After all, these comics versions of classic literature are aimed at the reluctant reader and any publisher that hires John M. Burns to draw Wuthering Heights was bound to gain my attention (just as they did by having John Stokes draw Great Expectations, Mike Collins A Christmas Carol and Jon Haward The Tempest).

The original novel is a complex affair with characters to match, but Burns brings them all to life with aplomb, also creating stunning backgrounds to this tale sent in the Yorkshire Moors. There are scenes where he's managed to perfectly capture a moment in the text with consummate style - a look from Cathy Linton on Page 135 being one fine example of his skill.

Sean Michael Wilson also plays his part, adapting such a well-loved tale with care. His breakdown of the novel lends much to Burns vision.

I have but one gripe about the storytelling - the use of what are known in the trade as 'Buscema layouts', where two panels are stacked on each other on left of page with a third, vertical, on the right, making for confusing story flow. I was a bit surprised by the number of these, given the desire to make the story easy to understand.

That aside, this is a terrific piece of work. To the publisher's credit, they also remain true to their mandate and deliver you the full Wuthering Heights novel - unlike many film adaptations, the story of the younger generations affected by the doomed love between Heathcliff and Catherine Earshaw is included in this mammoth story.

Overall, for those of us who may never have picked up a romantic novel in their lives, Burns and the creative team deliver a knock out job with this new Wuthering Heights adaptation - one that actually sent me off to track down a copy of the original.

Classical Comics will, I'm sure, be pleased to hear this.


Wuthering Heights is available now in the UK and on sale in the US in March 2012

Wuthering Heights is also available as a 'Quick Text' in modern English

More about Classical Comics' Wuthering Heights on the official web site

Wuthering Heights Wikipedia Page
Includes details of many other adaptations of the story, with a more detailed list here

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