Fans of classic fantasy and manga will be interested in a new adaptation of Alice in Wonderland by Filipino comics creator, writer and illustrator Rod Espinosa. The new hardcover edition from Dark Horse Comics collects Espinosa’s four-issue series from 2006 in a nicely designed storybook form and is scheduled for release January 30, 2013.
So how close does Espinosa get to the original Lewis Carroll work, considering it is not a complete word-for-word adaptation and it reveals the story in manga form?
Espinosa’s take on Alice–adapting both story and art–approaches the realm of picture books, revealing a possible entry point to Alice for little kids. If you’re not outright reading the original work to a kid not old enough to read, and the kid needs pictures to hold his/her interest (as Alice herself does) and he/she holds a fondness for manga or anime, this may be tailor-made for you. And as book design goes this volume is right up there with several well-done Archaia Publishing books–known for their nice presentations–such as David Petersen’s Mouse Guard series and Jeremy Bastian’s Cursed Pirate Girl.
It doesn’t dwell in the stranger, wilder aspects of Alice as done by other adaptations, including the brilliant film by Tim Burton, and instead it seems aimed at a younger reader. This Alice in Wonderland presents a softer and maybe sweeter version of Alice, something like the protagonists and their friends in the animated worlds of Hayao Miyazaki, in particular Whispers of the Heart, My Neighbor Totoro, or Spirited Away.
All the key classic elements are here: the white rabbit, the hookah-smoking caterpillar, the Cheshire cat, the mad hatter, flamingo and hedgehog croquet, and particularly well-envisioned are the playing cards. The best feature is the reveal of the Queen of Hearts, surprising and entirely appropriate to the story. Espinosa’s Alice is expressive and full of energy. His world is full of bright colors and big designs. Even for those who aren’t fans of manga, Espinosa’s Alice is a cute and appealing character.
Espinosa spends more focus on visuals than on re-stating Carroll’s text. He also reveals many features in common with C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the journey of naive and curious little girls who stumbles into a magical otherworld, as well as the unexpected journey of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Bilbo Baggins, and influences on later works, like the every flavor jelly beans in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and the sci-fi world of The Matrix.
All said, Espinosa’s Alice in Wonderland is a solid new adaptation, unlike most graphic novels these days it is entirely appropriate for all ages, and it would make a good gift book for kids.