‘The Wind in the Willows’ Review
Classic Illustrated Deluxe # 1: The Wind in the Willows
Novel by Kenneth Grahame; adapted by Michel Plessix
Papercutz, 2007, $13.95 (paperback) / $17.95 (hardcover)
I’ve wasted a lot of time not writing the review for this book, mostly because I suspected it would be one of the shortest in my career. (And both you and my ComicMix overlords deserve better than a super-short review.)
The problem is that there really isn’t much to say about Michel Plessix’s adaptation of The Wind in the Willows: it’s lovely and sweet, one of the best adaptations of a novel into the comics form that I’ve ever seen. When a book does everything right, it can be hard to talk about it, and I can’t see anything that Plessix does wrong here.
Plessix’s linework is careful and assured, capturing complex scenes with ease and giving life and emotion to a wide variety of anthropomorphic animal characters. Even more than that, he’s mastered the tricky art of those animals: they’re human enough to have gestures and body language, but animal enough to be believable as talking frogs, badgers, rats, and so on. And then he draws humans in the mix as well, and makes the combination not just work for the space of a few pages, but feel natural and obvious.
On top of all that is a carefully-chosen palette of mostly light, pastel colors, trying it all together with the perfect touch. The art of The Wind in the Willows is simply exquisite, but you need to look at it closely; it doesn’t demand attention but instead serves and advances the story.
In fact, the one quibble I have with the art is that it’s a bit small for my eyes; I’d much rather see this reprinted larger. From the proportions, it looks like The Wind in the Willows might have been created for an album-format, and it would probably look even better that way.
The story will be familiar to anyone who’s read Kenneth Grahame’s classic novel; Plessix adapts it very closely, and includes nearly all of the details of the original. (And without resorting to an overload of captions; The Wind in the Willows does have captions – quite a few, at times – but they never overwhelm the story.) The Mole runs away from his spring cleaning, and falls in with all of the other characters – the Water Rat, the Otter, the Badger, and, of course, above all, Baron Tadpole, Toad of Toad Hall. Plessix is good at capturing Toad’s manic enthusiasms, both in his eyes and in his physical movements.
Plessix’s adaptation is equally good for fans of The Wind in the Willows – who will have a chance to revisit a favorite book in a new form – and for new readers, who can get the essence of the book in a wonderful package, but still have the real thing to look forward to. As the launch title for the new “Classics Illustrated Deluxe” series, it’s a massive triumph. If the series goes on to be half this good consistently, it will be absolutely wonderful.
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
Publishers who would like their books to be reviewed at ComicMix should contact ComicMix through the usual channels or email Andrew Wheeler directly at acwheele (at) optonline (dot) net.