Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Wood Boy #1

The Wood Boy #1, April 2005, Image Comics
writer: Raymond E. Feist
adapted by: Sean J. Jordan
artist: Mat Broome
colorist: Stephen Broome
letterer: Artmonkeys

Before you ask, no, The Wood Boy isn’t an adaptation of the latest Ron Jeremy flick, but thank you for asking. The Wood Boy is an adaptation of a Raymond E. Feist novel that I haven’t read, which is important to mention only because Feist’s Magician: Apprentice series consumed so much of my junior high years. Yes, when I finally outgrew The Hardy Boys, my eager eyes desperately sought another literary refuge, and I was excited and grateful to discover the adventures of young aimless Pug and his heroic buddy Tomas. I was enthralled by the first four Magician: Apprentice installments, but enough to follow through with the follow-up Prince of the Blood arc, let alone any other Feist epics. I’d never heard of The Wood Boy until I found this adaptation.

I wonder, had I heard of The Wood Boy before its comic book incarnation, would I have been as interested in this work as I was Magician: Apprentice? Both stories seem to start the same way, starring a boy consumed with his delusions of mundane grandeur until life takes him in a dramatically different direction. In the case of the Wood Boy, this last son of a stonecutter’s village is conquered by the Tsurani, a metal-fearing clan of considerable strength but ironically just disposition, allowing the villagers to live under tolerable conditions as servants. Since this story begins with the Wood Boy telling his tale of survival, we know he lives through the Tsurani’s reign, which alleviates the suspense that entails in this issue, the first part of his harrowing adventure. If serving a band of squatting warriors is really an adventure.

Yes, I didn’t really care for this issue, not so much because of the story, but because of its adaptation’s ill-paced implementation. Some of the critical sequences in this first issue seem to be missing a panel or two to make sense. For instance, one scene featuring the hanging of a man abruptly transitions to an image of the Wood Boy at a Tsurani’s soldier’s feet, apparently at a different point in time, under different circumstances entirely. The characters’ blocking on the page doesn’t help, either, with talking head segments blandly laced between melodramatic moments of fancy. Broome could be an excellent artist, but this issue is just lacking that special something to push it over the edge. Generally, it’s a limp start to a potentially grand epic that I’m just not that interested in pursuing further.

A few months ago, I read the first issue of Magician: Apprentice #1, the adaptation of that fantasy novel series I loved as a kid, and although I was thrilled to find myself transported back to that magical time, the experience wasn’t nearly as enthralled as the original. I assume someone somewhere felt the same stunted nostalgia when reading The Wood Boy. Some wood can be fashioned into a beautiful fixture; some just ends up as kindling.

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