When Jack was a young boy, his world was full of ghosts and ghouls, but one such monster–a ravenous and hideous troll–would haunt him long into manhood. As the beast sups upon a lifetime of Jack’s fear and regret, Jack must find the courage within himself to face the end once and for all.
Neil Gaiman’s coming of age story Troll Bridge has been made into a graphic novel. Is it Good?
Troll Bridge (Dark Horse Comics)
The story starts off innocently enough. In fact, after reading the first third of the book, I was tempted to show my daughters the comic because of the “children’s book” feel the story was taking. I had to pump the brakes on that one. You soon notice, as Jack meets the troll and begins to grow older, the tone of the book changes to a more mature one. The childlike innocence of a boy running alone through a forest, past an abandoned house while imagining fairies and pirates, gives way to a much darker exploration of what a person is on the inside.
I don’t need to tell anyone that Gaiman is a good writer. But, as a fan, it’s nice to be reminded of how good he can be. He does a lot with very little dialogue in this book. Told from Jack’s point of view as he grows up, falls in love (or thinks he does) and eventually has a family, his character is mostly revealed through small details, like scraps of a dear John letter fluttering in the background, and the conversations he has with the Troll each time they meet. There aren’t large sections of dialogue where Jack explains to the reader who he is.
There’s quite a contrast from the beginning of the book, that starts off so innocently and full of childhood nostalgia, to where Jack ends up. It’s left up to the reader what to think of Jack as we see some of the selfish choices he makes and the rather low opinion the Troll has of him. Is he the real monster of the story? Ultimately, what Gaiman has laid out is a story of self-evaluation and what Jack thinks of himself. It’s an interesting story, and what really makes it come alive is the art.
Colleen Doran’s images are fantastic. Just like the writing, the illustrations at the beginning of the book remind me of a well drawn children’s book. They could easily be mistaken for a classic fairy tale. The pictures are overflowing with details. I found myself treating it like a hidden object book, scanning each page and finding a new animals or item I hadn’t seen before. After the troll is met, the images mature right along with Jack. Gone is the whimsy of childhood, replaced with a more realistic, but still beautiful art style. The lettering (by Todd Klein) was also good, particularly in regard to the Troll and his dialogue.
Is It Good?
By itself, the story stands out for its fable-like telling of a very modern plot. It’s told simply, but doesn’t miss a beat capturing the heartache and regret a person faces as they look back at their life. On its own, the art is unique and eye catching enough for me to want to own a copy of this book. It keeps in step with the story, with its changing tone. Married to each other, I found them a perfect fit and a book I’ve enjoyed as much as any I’ve read this year.