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Neil Gaiman Week: Neverwhere (Graphic Novel)

From A Library: Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere by Mike Carey and Glenn Fabry

And so continues the strange evolution of Neverwhere – from television series to novel to comic book. Has there been a stranger path? And, to let you know where it came from (this is a Vertigo book so has to use a name for a selling point), it becomes ‘Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere’ (does he own it outright? He created the show with Lenny Henry, who came up with the concept of doing a story about homeless people; is this to say it is based on his novel rather than the programme?). Neil is far too busy to adapt his own work to comic book form, so Mike Carey is brought in to do the legwork and Glenn Fabry provides the artwork.

Carey is no stranger to following Gaiman – he made his name in the comic book world with Lucifer, the Sandman spin-off – and his Felix Castor stories (which I have enjoyed immensely) demonstrate his familiarity and comfort with London and fantasy elements. He follows the story of the book (see my review of novel for more detail) but without the prologue, with occasional individual touches to add something of himself – there is a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy line thrown in that wasn’t in the source material. There is one change that I think is of note – the ending, where Door confronts the mastermind behind the death of her family: in the book, she is shocked by the revelation, whereas the comic book has her reveal that she knew who was responsible, which is why she had planned for the twist that allows her to defeat the villain of the piece. Although Door is a more than competent character, this emphasis on her understanding of the situation throws a different light on her decisions and character throughout the rest of the story. An interesting change.

Fabry is an appropriate choice as artist for the book – his characters have always had an ugly beauty to them, dishevelled and grotty and looking like they would go unnoticed in Camden Market on a Saturday back in the days when it wasn’t completely full with tourists. His characters look perhaps a little too solid and large of thigh for me, but he draws the different worlds of London Above and Below with ease, and his storytelling doesn’t allow the reader to lose what is happening. As I have mentioned before, I still prefer his early b&w precision on Slaine in 2000AD, but that’s just my personal preference.

The only question at the end of the day is whether the story works in comic book form; was the adaptation justified? I’m not sure if anything was gained by the four-colour serialisation, but that could be my jaded self talking, having seen it for a third time now (will I be able to ever watch it as a film with an unbiased view?). I think I prefer the novel as the version of the story, and I’m not sure why Clandestine Chum Johnny Bacardi was so impressed with it in his reviews when the series came out (sorry JB).

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