A modernized Macbeth for manga fans, but the Bard deserves better.

MACBETH

MODERN ENGLISH EDITION

From the Manga Classics series

Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy gets an overlong Manga Classics series treatment.

This is a modern-language counterpart to the series’ 2018 manga adaptation of Macbeth that preserved the original text. Choy’s black-and-white manga-style artwork is crisp and dynamic, suiting the martial moments but also adeptly portraying characters’ internal struggles. The sharp lines and claustrophobic close-ups capture Macbeth’s journey from loyal liege to unhinged tyrant. Disappointingly, the less nuanced portrayal of Lady Macbeth relies on a literal interpretation of her lines. In a mostly successful attempt to illustrate and explain Elizabethan analogies, Macbeth’s abundant allusions, metaphors, and similes are translated into background imagery. Regrettably, the accompanying, modernized dialogue ultimately detracts from the retelling. The cadence and language of the original text is lost, sacrificed for an unappealing blend of stilted formal English and clichéd phrases. Converting a Shakespearean play to a popular, visual, modern medium may attract new audiences otherwise daunted by archaic language, thick tomes, and impenetrable theatrical productions, but the new dialogue has its own biases and interpretations that may escape readers unfamiliar with other approaches to understanding the play. No Throne of Blood, the medieval-ish Scottish setting remains intact, and the characters read as White.

A modernized Macbeth for manga fans, but the Bard deserves better. (cast list, manga-reading instructions, character sketches, creators’ notes) (Graphic fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-947808-21-8

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Manga Classics

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

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A timely and unabashedly feminist twist on a classic fairy tale.

RED HOOD

Sixteen-year-old Bisou Martel’s life takes a profound turn after encountering an aggressive wolf.

Following an embarrassing incident between Bisou and her boyfriend, James, after the homecoming dance, a humiliated Bisou runs into the Pacific Northwest woods. There, she kills a giant wolf who viciously attacks her, upending the quiet life she’s lived with her Mémé, a poet, since her mother’s violent death. The next day it’s revealed that her classmate Tucker— who drunkenly came on to her at the dance—was found dead in the woods with wounds identical to the ones Bisou inflicted on the wolf. When she rescues Keisha, an outspoken journalist for the school paper, from a similar wolf attack, Bisou gains an ally, and her Mémé reveals her bloody and brave legacy, which is inextricably tied to the moon and her menstrual cycle. Bisou needs her new powers in the coming days, as more wolves lie in wait. Arnold (Damsel, 2018, etc.) uses an intriguing blend of magic realism, lyrical prose, and imagery that evokes intimate physical and emotional aspects of young womanhood. Bisou’s loving relationship with gentle, kind James contrasts with the frank exploration of male entitlement and the disturbing incel phenomenon. Bisou and Mémé seem to be white, Keisha is cued as black, James has light-brown skin and black eyes, and there is diversity in the supporting cast.

A timely and unabashedly feminist twist on a classic fairy tale. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-274235-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Not so much one story as three (with a spectral onlooker); fans of the original may enjoy picking out the tweaks.

GREAT OR NOTHING

The March family marches on…in 1942.

Taking Beth, Jo, Meg, and Amy as point-of-view characters, the authorial quartet begins this spinoff with Beth dead but contributing free verse observations between chapters and the surviving sisters estranged. In the least developed storyline, Meg stays home, flirting briefly with being unfaithful to absent fellow teacher and beau John. Jo stalks off to work as a riveter in an airplane factory and (confirming the speculations of generations of nuance-sensitive readers) discovers her queerness. True to character, Amy lies about both her age and her admission to art school in Montreal so she can secretly join the Red Cross and is shipped off to London—where she runs into and falls for wounded airman Laurie. Though linked to the original by names, themes (notably the outwardly calm, saintly Marmee’s admission of inner anger, which is reflected here in her daughters), and incidents that are similar in type, there are enough references to period details to establish a weak sense of setting. Giving Meg and Amy chances to reflect on their racial attitudes through the introduction of a Japanese American student and, in a single quick encounter, a Black serviceman feels perfunctory given the otherwise all-White cast. Jo’s slower ride to self-knowledge, though heavily foreshadowed, comes off as more authentic. If the sisters’ eventual fence-mending is predictable, it’s also refreshingly acerbic.

Not so much one story as three (with a spectral onlooker); fans of the original may enjoy picking out the tweaks. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-37259-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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