Hot Off the Press: The Last Unicorn
Where I got it and why: as a free ebook from Net Galley, courtesy of IDW Press, in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thanks, guys! I read about this in Peter S. Beagle’s newsletter, but I was waiting for the trade to actually pick it up; the comic book store that is okay with girls is out of my way, and I prefer to collect trades anyway.
Recommended? Oh god yes. This is gorgeous. And if you’re not familiar with the story, this would be a fantastic introduction.
Review: When I was a kid, there was a movie rental place across the street from my grandmother’s house. You went in the door, down a couple of steps, and turned left into the children’s area. There, under the picture window, on the second shelf from the top, was where the VHS of The Last Unicorn lived. I adored that movie, and I’m sure I contributed substantially to the demise of that poor videocassette. When I was a little older, I discovered the book, and I loved it even more. This is one of my favorite stories, all about myth and meaning and magic, so of course I was thrilled when they announced a graphic novel adaptation, and I am overjoyed to tell you that it is not disappointing.
The art, of course, is the real draw for a Last Unicorn comic book, and it’s spectacular. It does seem to be a little bit inspired by the movies – there’s a strong resemblance in the art for many characters, particularly the side characters who show up and then vanish again. Schmendrick looks much more like his description in the book than he does in the movie, which I like, but Molly looks younger, which I don’t. I do like the way the unicorn is inked in a reddish sepia rather than the black of everything else; it makes her stand out and glow (which I think is another trick they used in the movie, now I think of it). And then when the Red Bull arrives! The chapter two cover featuring Mommy Fortuna is my favorite, though. She’s always been one of my favorite characters, and the drawing of her with all these little charms and tiny figures tied in her hair is perfection.
The script owes much more to the book than to the movie. It features several more episodes from the book that I miss in the movie – Arachne the spider in Mommy Fortuna’s carnival, Schmendrick’s history, the princess attempting to summon a unicorn before her wedding, and most importantly, the village of Hagsgate. (I will never understand why they left Hagsgate out of the movie and put the bosomy tree in. Hagsgate has plot relevance, but that tree! — never mind.) Plot-wise, it’s a fairly loyal adaptation. There are places, though, where scenes are incredibly rushed, and I almost wish Gillis had left out some bits entirely rather than put them in and have them feel clumsy and extraneous. (Said tree, for example – not bosomy this time, but still unnecessary.)
While the movie will always have a fond place in my heart, and the book will always be the most spectacular, this incarnation of The Last Unicorn is a perfectly respectable edition. The art is always good, and sometimes breathtaking, and while there are flaws in the script it does seem to grasp the point of the book a little bit better than the movie does, and to bring some of the quality of heartache to it that the book does so well. If you’re a fan of The Last Unicorn already you’ll want to buy the hardcover for your collection (I know I will); if you’re unfamiliar with it, this is a wonderful place to start.
The Last Unicorn, an adaptation of the Peter S. Beagle novel by Peter Gillis, illustrated by Renae de Liz and Ray Dillon, was published in hardcover by IDW Press on January 25, 2011. Find it on: Goodreads,Indiebound, Publisher’s website