A Game of Thrones

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 June, 2012, 12:00am


A Game of Thrones
by George R.R. Martin, Daniel Abraham and Tommy Patterson
Dynamite Entertainment

The latest fantasy series to come complete with its own built-in fan base, George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series is a millennial mass-marketing work of genius. That's not just in its pages, where the majority of ardent fans have found their fantasy fix. Genius also pervades the world of publicity and endless cash-ins.

Martin and his marketing team have milked this golden cow for nearly all it is worth with the hit TV series Game of Thrones, numerous spin-off novels and companion guides, and endless games.

'Nearly' because here comes volume one of the graphic novel. Taking its cues from Martin's original A Game of Thrones novel, and not the HBO show that has arguably set this imaginary world alight, the story aims to condense the first quarter of the 800-plus page book into a six-issue arc.

Multiple characters are introduced, and complex story arcs and subplots are constructed.

The adapters of this coffee table-ready hardcover collection are Daniel Abraham and artist Tommy Patterson. Neither is well-recognised in the comic world.

The former is a student of Martin's who became a fantasy novelist, and the latter a recent geek-turned-artist. Some might think input from another medium coupled with some fanboy-infused fresh blood would fuel this fire.

Sadly, it does anything but. Patterson's art is passable, but is often a victim of the dreaded fantasy character curse: long hair, black capes and corsets. Add to this his old-school panel-to-panel art approach, at a time when 'cinematic' visual storytelling has been embraced by the modern industry, and you're left with an almost incomprehensible world of endless characters set against some dreary backgrounds.

But style is nothing without substance, and it's Abraham who is the true weak link in this chainmail.

Abraham can't shake off his storytelling techniques. His plots might be impressively pared down considering the scope and scale, but they come with endless thought balloons and captions taken verbatim from the book.

These explanatory asides add clunky characterisation in the middle of scenes and do little to help the story's flow.

The coupling of run-of-the-mill art with constant plot interruption ignores the age-old 'show, don't tell' adage. The book is painful for the eyes, confusing for the mind, and altogether a chore to read.

It's easy to blame the names on the cover. But the fault is higher up, at the publisher's level.

Dynamite Entertainment is one of the smaller names in the industry. Unlike Marvel or DC, which make

a point of creating their own characters, Dynamite prefers to license famous ones from other forms of cult media such as the Robocop and Highlander films.

They pay big bucks for these, so there's little cash left for the creative team. But completist fans will buy the books anyway, sales go through the roof, and everyone seems happy.

Yet in spite of the famous back stories and characters, a good story told badly is still bad. That is true here. There is certainly something for obsessive followers who've read, watched and collected all the Game of Thrones-related material.

But casual fans who like a bit of sword-and-sorcery would be better off sticking to the more mainstream TV show.