Whether you are a fan of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy novels set in the fictional world of Westeros, or the hit HBO series now in its second season, you’ve probably heard the title A Game of Thrones.
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Even those who don’t read fantasy are probably familiar with A Game of Thrones because the story—a gritty tale of warring factions scrambling for power, scheming families, sex, lies and betrayal—resonates across genres and fandoms. Folks who have never shown the slightest bit of interest in epic fantasy novels are now striking up conversations with me because they know that this is my wheelhouse—and they want to talk Game of Thrones.
Making the leap from print to a visual medium isn’t always easy. Everyone has a favorite book adapted to film that, in his or her opinion, fell short of the original material (The Dresden Files on SyFy comes to mind). Not only has A Game of Thrones been adapted into a successful TV show, there’s also a graphic novel/comic book series by Daniel Abraham (author of The Dragon’s Path), illustrated by Tommy Patterson (Farscape). A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, Volume One brings together in hardcover the first six issues of the comic originally published by Dynamite Entertainment.
It should be noted that this is not an adaptation of the HBO show, which aims to do a 13-episode arc for each book in the Song of Fire and Ice series. Instead, Abraham and Patterson are working from the original novel to create 24 issues for each book. This gives them room to more closely follow events featured in Martin’s books.
All the characters are here—Starks, Lannisters and Targaryens. The book covers six issues of the comic, which translates to the first few chapters of the original novel, including Robert Baratheon summoning Ned Stark to King’s Landing to become Hand of the King; Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister making their way to The Wall, a massive structure protecting the Seven Kingdoms from the Others, the race of creatures long since thought extinct; and Viserys Targaryen arranging a marriage for his sister, Daenerys, to Khal Drogo, warlord of the Dothraki horse warriors.
If you are a fan, there are no real surprises here. You might notice little details, nuances and subtle plot points here that, understandably, the HBO show can’t cover in an hour-long program. In a comic, the author and illustrator have more room to explore the rich world Martin has created.
If you are looking for a visual alternative to the TV show, this might be the solution, as the physical interpretations of the characters are very different. I will warn you that this hardcover has the same nudity and sexual situations depicted, well, graphically (all pun intended), so it’s probably not for the very young. The makers did have to change Daenerys’ age, showing her as more mature because of U.S. child pornography laws.
The art is all right to begin with, but improves as the story progresses. I had some issues with the look of some characters in that they seem too similar in design. I suppose you could chalk that up to familial resemblances. But the facial expressions, in particular, seem to be the same from panel to panel, scene to scene. Almost as if the artist, Patterson, paints with a one-dimensional palette. But even with the odd bits of art standing out, I found the book enjoyable and experienced a bit of nostalgia for the first time I read A Game of Thrones.
This hardcover edition includes 240 pages, the covers from the original comics as full-page breaks, and a ton of extra material like character-development sketches, explanations of how the novel was adapted, and a new foreword by Martin himself that might be worth the cost of admission. If there is a hardcore Game of Thrones fan in your life, this would make a wonderful gift/addition to their collection.
A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, Volume One is published by Bantam/Random House and is available now.
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and Hugo-nominated Podcast producer/host who lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast is nominated for a 2012 Hugo Award. He writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal and Functional Nerds.