Graphic Novel Review: Haydyn Wallender

Hello, friends! Welcome back after this crazy month of stress, mess and chaos. I hope all of your lives are going okay.

Last time I posted on this blog, we were discussing my love and passion for English-literature-turned-into-comics, like Matt Wagner’s “Grendel”, the comic that I chose to read for inspiration and plot. Let me tell you, it was not at all like I was expecting.

Wagner puts spins on this book that I never would have thought of in a creative element. His use of lines, specific color, iconography and storytelling combine for a compelling read. I read it straight for two hours. I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down. Grendel, as I mentioned before, is the demon from Hell that Beowulf is supposed to slay in order to save King Hrothgar of Denmark and his people. This epic poem is long, filled with exciting adventures at every turn (at least, it is if you’re an English major). One of the things that I love that Wagner incorporated was a different plot for Grendel. Making him the main character, Wagner goes through each section for different parts of Grendel’s life: how be became Grendel, who his lover was, why he became an author by day and killer by night, and how a little orphan girl puts the rainbow in this dark knight’s life. The way that he crafted the story by withholding some information to his readers only to reveal it later (known as exposition for my non-creative writing friends) and the way he incorporated pictures to enhance his view of Grendel completely amazes me. I love this version SO MUCH MORE than the one in Beowulf.

Okay, on to why I think he chose this specific genre of iconography. Like Scott McCloud mentions in his book, people who create portraits that are more realistic focus on the drawing of the picture and how it was done, rather than the story element that is supposed to accompany the images. With this in mind, Wagner does an excellent job

Matt Wagner’s Grendel, Dark Horse Comics Inc., 2000, pp. 28-29.

of taking the portraits of people, but not in too much detail (I would classify his drawing/creative medium as a balance between cartoon and realistic – see McCloud’s drawing on page 31 for reference). I think he chose to do this because he didn’t want to spend too much time on drawing the characters, nor as much time on the storyline. He wanted the flow to be effortless and easy for readers.

That being said, when I mentioned lines earlier, I was of course referring to the most recent chapter we read of McCloud’s book, chapter 7. In it, he talks about how lines and backgrounds hold their own weight. That could not be more true for this comic. Each part of this novel has a section that varies in line thickness, shade and tone. By tone, I mean the difference of a thin line that looks like it was created with light pencil strokes and a thin line that was created with black ink. This is similar for the three colors he uses consistently: black, white, and red. Each color has its own gradients in certain parts, and Wagner’s effectiveness of color and lines make each section of the comic unique. For a more in-depth look, please see the attached image above (which happened to have exactly what I was describing on the SAME PAGES BACK TO BACK. Wagner’s a genius). Sometimes his drawing style preference will change from more abstract to more realistic, depending on the scene and content. He will also switch out from word specific frames to picture specific frames, which is something that I found to be useful as a reader to follow along with his thoughts.

Honestly, I could spend hours deciphering this book and what I think Wagner’s creative intentions and expressions were meant to convey. However, I will leave it at this: If you have a chance to pick up this book, please do so. It is worth your time and energy.

Stay safe and healthy out there, little loves.

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