In typically buoyant cartoons, Williams presents a précis of Hugo’s epic.
It’s hard to imagine an illustrator less suited to this exhausting story and vice versa. In sequential panels large and small, Valjean and the other characters appear in picturesquely patched and rumpled costume. The background slums, sewers and, in later scenes, barricades are atmospherically stained and littered with detritus, but even during the most desperate and tragic events there are smiles and stage antics on view. Small birds, busy rats and cats, sprigs of garland and like decorative motifs add entertaining distractions within the pictures and along the borders of every page. Furthermore, even if portions of the dialogue enclosed in the speech balloons are credibly translated from the original, some of them have a jarringly jocular ring: “Since I am not arrested and I have things to do, I’m going”; “The old geezer and his daughter are on their way.” In contrast to the lively, fluidly drawn watercolors, the lines or blocks of narrative running beneath every picture offer a dry, past-tense plot summary that may possibly be helpful to assignment-driven slackers but go on long enough to try the interest of younger readers.
An epic muddle, all in all. (Graphic fiction. 10-13)