Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Noah by Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel, and Niko Henrichon

Noah is righteous man trying to provide a peaceful life for his family in a world filled with strife and cruelty. He begins receiving visions of a great flood that will cleanse the world of humanity’s corruption. Prompting Noah to build a vessel that will house and protect mated pairs of innocent creatures. He begins to doubt the role of humans in the future purified restored world resolving that his family will be the only and last.

This graphic novel is based on the screenplay's initial draft for the biblical inspired 2014 film ‘Noah’. I view the Bible as a classical literary work equivalent to mythology. Despite its iconic fame the story of Noah is actually a brief tale in the Bible (Genesis 5:32-10:1). I was excited about the prospect of a lengthier reinterpretation as an epic dark fantasy.

The illustrations by Niko Henrichon were beautifully detailed, colored and rugged giving a better sense of a barbaric antediluvian world with a diverse population. The layout was clean and well designed. The panels were composed well with variation in size for dramatic effect. I loved the artwork and the overall product was beautifully put together from the cover, binding, paper quality, and additional art insertions.

The biblical story of Noah is tale abundant with potential as an apocalyptic dark fantasy because the antediluvian world was lush with fantastical elements and violence. I liked that the story incorporated other biblical inspirations and interwove them into the story. Such as the characters Tubal-Cain and Methuselah, the physical location the Tower of Babel, and possible origin for the curse on Canaan. I especially enjoyed the inclusion of the Book of Enoch which tells the tale of angels known as the watchers who oversaw humans after the fall from Eden, imparted knowledge and fathered the Nephilim.

The story attempts to distance itself from the entanglement of religion by referring to the higher power as 'creator' with no direct verbal communication with the main character, no established agenda  and  no prominent influence or interception beyond progressing the story. I liked that the graphic novel's story tried to draw away from its biblical origin and create its own narration as a fantasy story through ambitious world building.

The graphic novel is 256 pages long which I feel wasn't long enough to tell the story it set out to. As a result the pacing felt off, rushed and choppy. The transitions were also abrupt making it feel like something was overlooked. The characters weren't properly established so it was difficult for me to have an emotional connection with them and understand their motivations for the actions they took.

Noah felt woefully underdeveloped as a main character. Noah's characterization and motivations were pivotal to understanding his beliefs and internal struggle. The lack of focus resulted in tension feeling forced and nonsensical. It also made the story's thinly veiled message sound derisive rather than impactful.  

I felt the dialogue in the story was flat, reflected little characterization and did the minimal job of progressing the story. Tubal-Cain and Methuselah probably had the best dialogue while the other characters were inconsistent

The story had an innovative magic system, intriguing society, fantastical creatures and dynamic world building that were all hinted at but weren't addressed sufficiently. My main complaint being that the story didn't go far enough or explore the elements it choose to focus on thoroughly enough.

Noah is a graphic novel with wonderful artwork and amazing concepts that made me feel disappointed and frustrated because it had so much potential to be an epic story but faltered in its execution.

[Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads]

[Note: For graphic novel reviews a rating reflects my reception of the story with the artwork's quality not factored in but noted in the review. I'm more concerned with characterization, the story line, dialogue and pacing.]   

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