It seemed fitting to do a review of this just before the premiere of Season 2 of the show on HBO. I loved my recent foray into graphic novel adaptations of books (with Uglies: Shay’s Story) and A Game of Thrones is the perfect follow up to that. In this case it’s a book series that I’m just never going to be able to read – 800+ pages in book 1, 900+ pages in book 2 – I struggle to get through a 300-400 page novel in a few weeks. I’d spend half my year trying to read these two books alone. And the TV series didn’t really interest my wife, and since we’re usually watching together, there just hasn’t been much opportunity to me to see more than the first few episodes.
So I come to this comic adaptation with a little knowledge from the series, but little else in terms of expectations. I’m not going to do my familiar summary of the story, at this point I’m guessing most people (unlike me) have read the books or seen the show. I’m going to talk about specific parts of this adaptation instead, to give you an idea of what I liked and to see if those same things might be appealing to you.
It should come as no surprise that this adaptation has some differences from the HBO series, and those sometimes subtle differences are mostly for the better. Scenes are expanded or extra bits of dialog are included in this graphic novel that just helped me understand the story that much better. Daenerys marriage to Drogo isn’t quite as smooth at first as it’s portrayed in the TV show, though eventually they both get to the same place of peace. But because of the limitations of budget on TV and the lack thereof when drawing, here we get to see Daenerys visions of Dragons and a wickedly wonderful Iron Throne that just needs to be seen to be believed.
There’s something about the format that just worked better for me as well. It adds a visual layer to the original manuscript, it’s an adaptation sure, but closer to the original than I think a TV show can capture. Still, if there’s something I have to give to HBO, the Others (the creatures of Winter) are much spookier on the show than how they were presented in the graphic novel. The only other thing that I felt didn't quite live up to my expectations was The Wall, I expected it to be even more impressive than it was on the show (because the sky's the limit in a comic) but there's only one small scene in this book featuring it, and we may get a better view in the next volume.
In all ways though, I was blown away by the artwork. I’ve never heard of Tommy Patterson before, but with a style very reminiscent of Michael Turner, I’ll be looking out for more work from him in the future. There is a substantive look at the making of this comic at the end of the book, which is a very worthwhile read. There were things I didn’t notice about the art until after reading this section – and it made me appreciate all the work going into the detailed backgrounds that the reader just takes for granted when reading the story. Most comics don’t look like this, and most artists aren’t drawing with this kind of attention to detail. It puts A Game of Thrones at a whole different level from everything else.
I finished this volume and immediately wanted to be able to pick up the next (which isn’t coming out until Dec) which should be telling enough on its own. I didn’t particularly care about catching up on the TV series, or reading these books, but if the comic continues to be as engaging as Volume 1 was, I can’t wait to read more. If you’re a fan of the show but don’t have the time to read the books, I can say this adaptation is worth your time – you’ll get more than what you’ve seen in the episodes, and the behind the scenes information will give you a better appreciation for what George RR Martin’s vision for this series really is.