Like animals trying to get into the ark, a procession of couples will be turning up at cinemas to watch the first big blockbuster of the year 2014 on March 28th.
Noah, directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Russell Crowe, hits theaters next week in all its animal loving, doomsday promising glory. Fancy me tickled when Image Comics released a graphic novel depicting the same movie, albeit the first script, on March 18th. Does it reveal tantalizing details that’ll appear in the movie? Will it measure up to the rewritten and glossy movie version? And more importantly, is it good?
Noah (Image Comics)
Way back in November, 2005 Aronofsky released a graphic novel entitled The Fountain, a full year before his film of the same name, to critical acclaim. Assuming his script would never get filmed, due to Brad Pitt pulling out at the last minute, he set to putting the script to graphic novel format and proved this story needed to be seen. In a possible attempt to repeat the success of that graphic novel Image is putting out a Noah book, only this time it’s not as closely tied to the film. At least I can assume so. I won’t be spoiling a thing from this book and by extension the film here, but needless to say if you want no spoilers at all stop reading and just jump to the score at the bottom.
The skies certainly don’t look like Earth do they?
Everyone knows the story of Noah, with its flood, its ark and its animals marching in two-by-two. There’s some major changes, especially visually, that people will notice. In fact, I won’t be surprised if some are downright angered by some changes in this book, as it doesn’t blatantly suggest it’s not a straight adapation. For those of you who might be offended, no, it’s not a straight adaptation and there some creative mechanisms in this book that change the story considerably.
The book opens with Noah observing how terribly dry the planet has become. Okay, that’s the same. He starts to have visions of massive rains and then notes how his fellow man are killing animals for sport. Obviously this is not conducive to a healthy planet and therefore a healthy people and he decides to tell the local chieftain who resides in a towering city known as Bab-ilim. I know what you’re thinking: isn’t this the Noah story I’ve already seen and hear a thousand times? No, not quite, as Aronofsky has changed it up a bit, with some power players from Heaven to give it all a nice kick in the pants. The general concepts are there, including Noah’s strict nature with his children and the building of the arc, but there’s some huge Lord of the Rings type battles utilizing said Heaven power players that will take most by surprise.
Noah’s got some fightin’ skillz.
Clocking in at 256 pages this is an epic graphic novel. The book is masterful in its pacing and clarity, always giving itself time to showcase atmosphere and content over cheap action or exposition. In a sense this is the ideal version of Noah, at least if it were shot from this script, as there’s no time constraints or physical aspects like weather or grumbling actors to muck things up.
The story is never confusing and the stakes are always crystal clear. Things remain pretty straightforward in fact until the children start complicated Noah’s plan. That rings in around page 100, so generally speaking about half of the book is short on words and very visceral. From there on Noah starts laying down rules and things get into a very biblical, know thy father, place. It’s a different sort beast and a definite change of pace, but it’s important to the tradition of the story and makes sense to some degree. I will say the book seems to be very focused on getting to the Ark, so much so that when the pace does tip towards the children it’s a bit of a surprise.
This book would be an utter failure without the incredibly strong work by Niko Henrichon. Best known for his work on Pride of Baghdad Niki hits this book right out of the park. I can’t imagine how long he’s had to work on this, because every single panel progresses the story, highly detailed and seems to just fit exactly right. Faces and backgrounds are extremely strong and whenever a science fictiony image pops in you’ll appreciate said details. This also extends to Noah’s visions, which are equally effecting due to Henrichon’s ability to capture the drama of a moment through layouts and atmosphere.
I’ll have what he’s having.
Is It Good?
Highly recommended. The weakest aspect is the third act, which is very different from most of the book, but still just as good. The art will captivate and the story, while based on the work we all know, has just enough fantastical changes to keep your interest until the very end.