I will start this review by saying that I love Kim Harrison's series The Hollows. They were the first true Urban Fantasy series I collected, and it has been my recommendation to many a person wanting to try out this genre.
However, and as much of a Fangirl I am to this author and her work (and the main character of the Graphic Novel, Ivy Tamwood), I have to outright admit there are some really serious issues with this Graphic Novel adaptation of the world of the Hollows. The author at least was gracious enough to not just wanting to transcribe her already written work into comic book form (Anita Blake and Harry Dresden, I'm looking at you!), something that seldom works right. Instead, she gifted us with a trip into the mind of Ivy (rather than the books' narrator, Rachel) and tells us just how the main duo of the series came to work together and know each other.
Storywise, this might have worked rather well for a novel, or a noveletta -- but in comic form, the most interesting aspects of the tale were subdued or understated. Ivy's feelings (read love) for Rachel happened incredibly abruptly, and even though Rachel here wasn't as incredibly annoying as Mercy Thompson in the "Homecoming" graphic novel (awful awful AWFUL!), she came across as random, whimsical, and annoyingly moralist. And somehow, Ivy seems to be amazingly grateful to have Rachel's abuse. I love the two characters and I adore Rachel, but I really didn't like her in this GN - in the books she's sassy, self assured and a little bit cheeky. Here? She's got mood swings that take her from cutesy to "RANTING BITCH IN YOUR FACE!".
Again, this tiny history behind the GN would be much more interesting if more properly developed but it just didn't work -- there was no emotional development, and the secondary plot (the murdered werewolf) seems crammed in to give the girls something to do that wasn't Ivy moping over Rachel and her relationship to Piscary. The secondary characters felt awkward -- crowbared even -- almost forced to be there, as if they had been contractually obligated to make an appearance to please the fans.
I can't really understand the goal of this Graphic Novel:
- If it was to give the fans a little treat, to show them a vignette of how their main duo came together, it fails because it lacks most of the elements that make the Hollows Series so much fun -- and the author's talented writing. Everything given here is a weak rehash of what we already knew from reading the books.
- If it was to actually complete a missing gap in The Hollows lore, and the author meant it as something actually useful, it, again fails, because she chose the wrong medium: she's clearly out of her depth, and the story itself would either need to be told in a bigger book, or by a more competent storyteller in this means, because -- really? I didn't learn anything interesting about the two that I didn't know already.
- If it was to draw in new people, give them a taste of the books and maybe get them to buy the series, it also fails, because there is very little information about the setting (the little there is is crammed into a few squares) -- and when you waste 3 whole pages just to describe Cincinnati, and then carry on the rest of the book as assuming that the reader already knows the setting fully well, then you really can't expect the new readers to be engaged, because they will have no reason to care about the characters. And with the story itself not being particularly good or memorable -- it becomes even harder to recommend this as a "stepping stone" for someone to get interested in the series.
One thing is painfully obvious -- Ms. Harrison is a delicious writer, but she can't write comics to save her life. As I said above, the first three pages are dedicated to Cincinnati alone -- something that would work fine in a novel, but not in a comic book. Then, suddenly, the GN rushes forward, and I kept getting the feeling I was running behind it, filling in bits here and there with my own knowledge of the Books. There is no pacing, no interest, no use of the medium itself to convey the story -- it seems as if Kim Harrison just wrote a story, and then told someone to write pictures for it. Unfortunately, with comics seen often as a "lesser medium", a lot of people believe that if you can write novels, you can write comics. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth and it takes a special training (and talent) to be able to pull off a good Graphic Novel.
Blood Works doesn't work neither as a comic or a novel, thus failing in both precepts of being a "Graphic Novel."
Now, the art.
Many people complained that the art was ghastly, subpar, didn't make the original characters any justice. I think it just shows that the artist is not very experienced -- and I can understand that for all her popularity, Ms. Harrison couldn't really afford to hire one of the real good and great comic book artists in the market (Ivy drawn by Adam Hughes.... le sigh!). I didn't like the art, but if the story had been good, I wouldn't have minded it. Curiously, one of the things that annoyed me most about the art wound up being the author's fault -- Ivy's excessive Asian looks irritated the hell out of me, because it went against the "hint of Asian" that claimed that Ivy had in the books. It was far too much -- and I blamed the artist, all the way through the GN, until I reached the "extras" section, where Kim Harrison shows her notes asking for the artist to redo Ivy, because she show the "hint of Asian" -- and listing Lucy Liu as a good reference.
Now, Lucy Liu is a beautiful woman. But she is VERY CLEARLY Asian. And Ivy is not supposed to be (at least judging from the books), and instead, she should just have an exotic look, topped off with a hint of Asian. It's small wonder quite a few complained about this unexpected feature of Ivy in the GN. Part of me wonders if it wasn't just to make Rachel look better by comparison, because she was quite prettily drawn.
I didn't really like the hairdo in Ivy (Ivy is highly sophisticated, and that ponytail didn't work well), but those are minor grievances.
Unfortunately, I'm forced to give this book a very low mark: the story is forgettable and unoriginal, the art is passable at best and mediocre at worst, and it seems, in the end, just a waste of paper and space for either fans or nenwcommers. This comes across more as a work of vanity (to have one's urban fantasy books turned into comics seems a recent trend as of late), and not to really achieve anything truly meaningful.