Blood Work: An Original Hollows Graphic Novel Hardcover – Jul 12 2011
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About the Author
Kim Harrison, author of the New York Times bestselling Hollows urban fantasy series, was born and raised in Michigan. After receiving a bachelor of science degree, she moved to South Carolina with her husband and two boys, recently returning north to escape the heat. In addition to writing the Hollows books, she is the author of the bestselling Madison Avery young-adult series. Harrison is a member of both the Romance Writers of America and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. When not at her desk, she is likely digging in her yard or remodeling her Victorian home.
Pedro Maia recently finished college with a degree in art. Blood Work is one of his first full-length projects. He lives in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
Gemma Magno was inspired to draw by anime and manga, and received a Presidential Award after winning several art competitions. She lives in the Phillipines.
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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.
That said, while I love the characters of Kim's books, the latest installment of the Hollows series seems to just tread water rather than advance any of the characterizations or plot lines. Yes we find out who killed Kist. Unfortunately it's a stupidly senseless death that seems just to have happened so Rachel could have an excuse to be angsty. This new book lacks a rather critical sense of, for want of better term, soul. With little rhyme or reason, Rachel is not at her best as she mopes through a majority of the book when she isn't agonizing over how long she should respect her dead boyfriend's memory before giving into her desire to knock metaphysical boots with a goodlooking guy witch whose best feature appears to be his convenient accessibility.
Rachel has always had a bit of a bewildering auto "wolf whistle, pant, pant, pant" thought mode when she encounters any and every good looking male who isn't running away from her bad reputation and isn't trying to kill her... Okay scratch that, she "notices" them in that way even if they are trying to kill her. Not that she follows up on it, always, but it grows old after the umpteenth time she notice how hawt this or that guy's tight butt happens to be. It feels artificial when it's driven home several times a book, book after book, just how hot to trot Rachel is for any good looking guy that crosses her line of vision.
Meanwhile the intriguing almost romance between Rachel and Ivy that held such promise in the first few books, now tiredly retreads the same old same old for a seventh book as Ivy grows painful to watch with her soulful torch bearing for Rachel, who alternately eggs on and then slaps down the vampire who perpetually teeters on the edge of self control. Much as I'd love Rachel and Ivy together, finally, even a femslash romantic such as myself can see this has become a sad joke that just seems to linger as hollow lipstick lesbian tease.
The mystery of the book is nonexistent for anyone whose read the short stories that reveal all the whodunnit almost at the start of the novel, or incomprehensible for those who haven't read all the prequel shorts and thus have no idea of what is going on or as one friend asked me "Who are these people?!? I don't know what half this book is about." -- The latest book is not an understandable read for anyone who hasn't read the previous books and shorts.
I'd recommend this book for long time fans of Rachel and her crowd. It's great to read more Rachel even if she isn't doing anything really meaningful. This isn't the best book in the series, but even a place marker that treads water is okay if it's just a pause between better things. I really hope things in the next few books pick up though.
***SPOILERS TO FOLLOW***
The things I liked (what little there was):
Bis is the bomb, such a protective little tyke, it was great to see more of him and get tantalizing hints of his role in things to come. I'm very, very curious to see what sort of part he'll be playing in Rachel's magical development. Obviously a unique one.
Jenks is always a ray of sunshine (or fairy dust), even if he was getting just a little repetitive here. Potentially my favorite of the good guys these days. Oh, and Ford was fun to play with, since he's possible the ONLY male in the entire series Rachel hasn't developed a sexual crush on... yet.
Rynn Cormel. I was interested to see what was going to be done with this character and I wasn't disappointed. I had hoped Harrison wouldn't confine Rynn to happy-go-lucky, good-guy vampire tricks, and she doesn't. He's not quite a bad boy, but he's a very real and dynamic character, made even more interesting by being what he is: lacking a soul and still somehow thriving, if an undead vampire can be said to thrive.
Glimpses of Al and Trent (as they are by far the most interesting mysteries still floating around in this series) were of course, very welcome, and very interesting.
The reasons this is the worst book of this series:
The number one reason: Pierce. I mean, come on now, not only is he a character who ONLY got introduced in a short story, and is spoken about in this book as though he's been there all along, but his importance to Rachel is so contrived that it's laughable. I mean, seriously, we are only now (in book 7!) finding out that ALL ALONG, Rachel has been hedging all her bets against this man, and THAT is the main reason she can't land herself a decent relationship? Oh. Please. I was so disgusted reading about how 'all this time she's been measuring all the other wanna-be's up against him' that I just about had to stop reading. On that note, if you're going to introduce a main character in a short story and then go on like everyone knows who he is, the least you could do is include the short in this book somewhere...
The number two reason, and I never thought I would say this: Rachel. Is it just me or is she getting less and less interesting the longer this series goes on? If she does the 'woe-is-me' routine, or talks about how her life sucks, or it's all her fault people are A) treating her badly or B) leaving her, one more time... I try to be sympathetic, but let's be honest, she gets herself into these situations more often than not. There's a fine balance in writing angst, and this one tipped way too far into the depressing side. And I begin to wonder if Rachel really will ever learn, because one minute she'll be talking about how she's going to change, and then the next minute she's back to doing something stupid (like chasing Banshee's down dark alleys solo when a few pages previous she was talking about how witches are no match for them). I'm beginning to see some stagnation in Rachel as a character.
And btw, I thought she and Ivy had come to an understanding, if not resolved the (possible) romantic issues? Then why is it being rehashed for the billionth time here? A direction really needs to be chosen and stuck with between those two. It's getting seriously annoying, and how sad is it when the two main characters of a series are the most irritating parts of it?
The Banshee story. This book's main B-plot involves a brand new species being introduced into the Hollows. Frankly, I was unimpressed. From the eye-catching title, I had expected far more work with Al (who really only shows up at the end), or at least SOME continuation of the previous remaining loose ends. Aside from Kisten, there was almost none of that here. I realize the author is trying to take the series in a new direction, but so many species and mini-character have already been introduced in the Hollows that, frankly, reading about an unsympathetic Banshee who (like many others) is trying to kill Rachel, was just uninteresting. Glenn and Eddings were fun though.
Marshal. I never cared for his character much in the first place, but I have to admit his exit from the series felt especially strange. If I didn't know better (ahem), I'd say he got shoved out to make room for another love interest. But there wasn't one in this book, right? Oh, wait!
Kisten. Um. Really? The mystery that's been stretched out over maybe three books now? An entire novel dedicated to answering it (and dealing with Banshees... who have to be the most unsympathetic characters that Rachel somehow manages to be sympathetic too. And on that note, you couldn't care less about Banshees killing a family for sustenance, but you'll hate Trent until the day you die for safekeeping his entire race? Alright then...) So the mystery of Kisten.. is no mystery at all. In fact, it's a fact that probably could have been discovered and explained on a side-note, and avoided all the build-up that eventually lead... nowhere. Hey, not everyone can die in a blaze of glory, but I figure a huge opportunity gets missed when you decide to blow it up this big and then crash it with no interesting resolution what-so-ever.
There are many more things, but it would be crying a bit too much to name all the minor details behind my disappointment with WWBC. In summary, definitely the worst book in the series, and thank goodness I didn't actually spend money on it. Hopefully not a sign of things to come.
On the book as a Graphic Novel: A good book allows the written word to transform into our own, personal world within our imaginations, filled with our own ideas - like adding a texture to the book and its characters unique to us alone. The concept explains our disappointment when "our" Kisten doesn't look a thing like the young man in the book (I think he mows my lawn). It is also what a comic book takes away from the reader. The power to create something magical from the written word is gone because the illustrations try to do the work that your imagination is supposed to be doing.
I would definitely NOT recommend this title to anyone who has never read a Harrison novel. Her writing ability is too sizable to be confined to speech bubbles and a reader might never get to know how talented Harrison truly is at weaving a tale.
For those who have read her Hollows novels? It doesn't really add anything to the series, so I am sure there will be a plethora of used copies available soon...