Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Graphic Novel)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Book 1The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Graphic Novel)
by Denise Mina

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Graphic Novel) / B009DNVXX8

I'm a big fan of the Millennium Trilogy, having read the novels several times, listened to the audiobook narrated by Simon Vance, and own the original movies with Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace. (I have not, for the record, seen the American remakes.) I selected this graphic novel at NetGalley with a great deal of excitement, fully expecting to enjoy it, but... well, I won't say I'm disappointed exactly, but I'm not enthralled.

This installment of the series takes us from the opening (with Vanger receiving the yearly flower) to maybe about a third of the way through the novel (where Lisbeth revenges herself on Bjurman). I want to recognize upfront that adapting this much material into a ~150 page graphic novel could not have been easy, and I think the adaptation author did about as good a job as could be hoped for.

The story and characters have been altered pretty radically, though, in order to convey emotion and urgency "on screen" through facial expressions and dialogue rather than narration. Erika Berger talks candidly about sex with Mikael Blomkvist and Christer Malm's sexuality at board meetings, Dragan Armanskij openly flirts with Lisbeth at work, Henrik Vanger cries on receiving the yearly flower, Lisbeth dances and laughs and flirts with Mimi in public, and so forth. Everyone feels like they're wearing their heart on their sleeve and that change doesn't really work well with the tenor of the story, I think.

The dialogue, too, has been changed pretty radically to support the format of the adaptation. Cecilia Vanger contributes more proactively to the investigation, and the old friend who sets Blomkvist off after Wennerström in the beginning has an entirely different story to tell. I think all these changes are fair enough, given the needs of an adaptation, but I'm less enthused about some strange Americanisms creeping into the dialogue. When Lisbeth confronts Bjurman, for example, she quotes Al Pacino from "Scarface" by saying "say hello to my little friend!" Things like that ended up jarring me out of the narrative, though others may feel differently.

A word on the art in this novel: it's not really my cup of tea. There's a lot of heavy use of shading and shadowing in panels to prevent having to draw facial details beyond a rough outline. Lisbeth is rendered very well, and her facial expressions are extremely vivid, but Blomkvist's face (and even the shape of his head!) seems to shift and change a little too much from panel to panel. It's also worth noting that the scenes of Lisbeth's rape are extremely graphic, with blood covering much of the panels -- this isn't a criticism so much as a caution to know what you're getting into if you purchase this volume.

On balance, I'm glad this graphic novel exists but it doesn't really "feel" like the story I know. I think this will be a great introduction to the series for people who are curious about the story but weren't able to get into the densely detailed books, and I consider that to be a good thing. But if you are a hardcore fan of the books, whether or not you like the adaptation will boil down to how you feel about the changes made in service to the new format. I'd give this book 3.5 stars, but I won't be picking up the next installment for myself personally.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.

~ Ana Mardoll


Patrick Ingram said...

Trigger: Rape

The biggest reason I put off reading the books and watching the movies was that a common criticism of the story was that it was "All Men (except the main character) Are Rapists: The Novel". Perhaps this graphic novel would let me see if those criticisms are overblown. So, thank you for bringing it to my attention.

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