Writer: Orson Scott Card
Adaptation: Roland Bernard Brown
Artists: Renato Arlem with Klebs Moura, Jr.
Colorist: David Curiel
Publisher: Dabel Brothers Productions
This series can truly be described as a sci-fi Classics Illustrated, with more emphasis on the literary nature of the issues than the normal comic book sensibilities. Like many of the good Classics Illustrated issues I read as a kid, this comic coerced me to buy three of the Tales of Alvin Maker novels, which I havenít started reading yet (no time with all this comic reviewing!). So far, Red Prophet has been a compelling story, and I have a good feeling the novel is fantastic. The problem with adapting any kind of written work into a comic book is the necessary brevity of the illustrated art-form. Therefore, what is normally built up over hundreds of pages in a novel must be broken down into 22 page segments, which must necessarily reveal the enchantment and excitement of the original work. If there is a main problem with Red Prophet as a comic book, it is this unassailable fact. Roland Brownís adaptation is a little too literal for this series, which is great for Cardís fans, but not as entertaining to comic readers. For instance, we finally meet the main character of the story in the final page of Issue #2. Red Prophetís first two issues are more of a prelude than the actual tale of Alvin Maker, which works for the novel, but makes the comic book tale a slightly cumbersome read. However, the title of this issue is "The Tale of Lolla-Wossiky," and I think that Brown does a great job displaying the true character of the Shawnee Indian in this adaptation.
Is the overall issue wordy? Yes, incredibly so. For me, a 22 page comic book normally takes about fifteen to twenty minutes to read, which includes admiring the artwork. This issue easily took me twice that, and while spending a longer time with a particular comic book is never a bad thing, the pacing was excruciatingly slow. It felt like Lolla-Wossiky was in the forest for months figuratively as well as literally! However, the amount of detail and character development the reader receives about Lolla-Wossiky is impressive, and I left this issue feeling that I knew almost everything there is to know about him. Starting the issue with an explanation of his origins was helpful, but what really embellished him properly was his clear-headed journey away from Carthage City. I say "clear-headed" because the first issue showed Lolla-Wossiky in an unflattering light as a hopeless drunkard. In Issue #2, we see the portrait of a man haunted by his past and the portent of future events. Sounds like a novel, doesnít it? I donít think any reader can argue that the depth of characterization within Red Prophet is superior, but this is basically a comicization (Yes, I made up the word) of a novel. For this series to truly succeed with comic book fans, I think Brown should have thought more about the flow and sequential art of each issue rather than remaining wholly faithful to Orson Scott Cardís original work. I donít know if Card would approve, but comic readers would. Hey, Cardís written some pretty good comic books, so maybe...
As for the art, this is very solid work presented by Renato Arlem & Klebs Moura. Nothing fancy or innovative here, but a pleasing overall result, giving a realistic look to the overall proceedings. The lines are clean, facial expressions are evocative, and landscapes are expansive. Like the writing, there are not many risks taken with panel construction or placement, and the coloring is effectively rendered by David Curiel. However, the footnote I will attach with any recommendation of this series is that the action moves at a snailís pace. For readers of Card or other sci-fi novel junkies, this kind of format may not be that off-putting. However, I guarantee that those same readers would rather dive into a new, fascinating novel for eight bucks than plunk down three dollars for a very tiny slice of a storyís pie. If youíre a comic reader who is in for a detailed story (and I do mean detailed), you could do a lot worse than Red Prophet, even with the slow pacing. Just remember to order the Venti latte instead of the Tall before you undertake this issue!
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