“Slaughterhouse-Five, or the Children’s Crusade: A Graphic Novel Adaptation.” By Kurt Vonnegut, Ryan North, and Albert Monteys. Archaia: Boom! $24.99. September 2020. 192 pp. Ages 13+.
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“No way, this is crazy,” was the initial reaction of Barcelona-based comics artist Albert Monteys when an editor from Archaia offered him a gig reinterpreting Kurt Vonnegut’s classic 1969 novel “Slaughterhouse-Five.” As writer Ryan North recently told “Black Nerd Problems,” his response was similar. “You definitely don’t want to be the one who messes up Vonnegut, you know?”
“Slaughterhouse-Five” is so singular and beloved, who wouldn’t be skeptical of a comics adaptation? I love and believe in this format—and I love and believe in North’s work so far, and what I’ve been learning about the work of Monteys—but much like these creators, my first reaction when I heard about this book was raised eyebrows. Adaptations are often simply a way for everyone to make a quick buck out of a recognizable title. I’m not alone in having been burned by rushed and ill-thought-out adaptations, which get fans excited, then fail to move much beyond the status of mere illustrated book—and often poorly illustrated book at that.
Yet once Monteys saw the script that North had drafted, he changed his mind. North’s remix and reinterpretation of Vonnegut’s original is its own brilliant thing. The book also serves as a memorial to Vonnegut himself, who died in 2007. It’s a tricky business respecting longtime fans and newcomers alike, so North and Monteys address that tension immediately, fleshing out a famous line drawing from the original novel, and harnessing it to serve as a moment of silence for its creator:
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