Alice in Wonderland by Rod Espinosa
Writer/Artist: Lewis Carroll, graphic novel adapted by Rod Espinosa
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: February 6, 2013
Originally published as a four-issue miniseries and a subsequent trade paperback in the mid-2000s by Antarctic Press, Rod Espinosa’s adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic, now reprinted by Dark Horse, is a faithful one. Tinged with a manga style the author has since moved away from, this collection sells itself clearly as a children’s book, filtering out some of the more ridiculous bits of nonsense in its source material. There’s not much room for long poems in comics, for example, and the lengthier, abstract, talkier episodes rightly hit the cutting room floor. That ruthless approach can make the story feel breathless at times, but it also keeps things moving.
The question is whether one should praise Espinosa for his straightforward approach or complain about it. With the many adaptations of the most famous love letter to a prepubescent ever penned, why create another if it’s not going to do something new? That doesn’t mean a new interpretation needs to be filtered as a musical (Disney’s 1951 animated feature) or artsy porno (Alan Moore’s Lost Girls) or both (the live-action Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Comedy from 1976), but at a certain point, the stuff has been hashed over to the point of puree. Espinosa is especially strong as an adapter, and he seems to be filling that role a lot, working on graphic translations of American History episodes and other revered literature. Comics adaptations of classics can be a fine way to make younger readers, especially male ones, dip a toe into the canon. On the other hand, I don’t imagine many young boys will be drawn to Alice in Wonderland even with lots of pictures. It’s a well-executed effort, but the book feels more workmanlike than inspired.