Body Work – Rivers of London Graphic Novel Review
|Book Name:||Body Work|
|Author:||Written by Ben Aaronovitch & Andrew Cartmel. Art by Lee Sullivan. Color by Luis Guerrero.|
|Genre(s):||Urban Fantasy / Comic Book|
|Release Date:||July 15, 2015|
I was raised on a diet of comic-book adaptations. Back when home video was in its infancy, they were the only way to ‘watch’ a film again, or in some cases even see it. I had a paperback version of The Empire Strikes Back from Marvel that literally dropped to bits from being read so much, and an adaptation of Alien that I devoured years before I’d eventually be of a suitable age to watch the film itself. These adaptations were a gateway to science-fiction and fantasy for the young reader that I was, containing images that I can still see in my mind’s eye years later.
Having read the first three of Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant novels, I was intrigued to see that publishers, Titan, had released a comic-book series entitled Rivers of London. With an intention to tell new stories rather than adapt the existing novels, it met with high praise from fans of both the novels and comic-books in general. Titan have now collected the first five issues into a graphic novel, comprising a story arc entitled Body Work.
It’s a striking volume, with an eye-catching cover and interior artwork that is crisp and fresh. Artist Lee Sullivan has done a great job in capturing the familiar characters from the books – Molly is especially great – and the colours from Luis Guerrero bring everything to beautiful, vivid life. While the books allow us to get into Grant’s head, any attempt to do so here would litter the panels and interfere with the visual narrative, but the art is of such a high quality that all it takes is an expression on a face to know what the characters are thinking. It’s this, as well as the detail that’s lurking in the background, that makes Body Work such a delightfully visual experience.
Combined with this artwork is a great plot, one totally in keeping with the Peter Grant novels, in both tone and atmosphere. Aaronovitch has joined forces with comic writer Andrew Cartmel to create a story that, while alluding to events in the novels, doesn’t depend on a knowledge of them. It’s a collaboration that works brilliantly, with dialogue and events that balance the humour and the horror perfectly, while the banter between characters is first class. The story never pauses, it’s always gripping, and I can only imagine how desperate readers must have been for the next instalment, as I rattled through it in one sitting. Because of this however, the moments showing ‘what has gone before’ felt somewhat frustrating, taking away some of the immediacy. It’s a personal thing, and possibly petty, but it was a series of recaps that never felt necessary.
Special mention must go to the single page ‘stingers’ that are collected in the back of the book. There’s nothing deep and meaningful about them, but they’re incredibly heart-warming, downright hilarious or both. They showcase how good the characters are, as well as the creative team’s ability to tell a story in such a short time, and are guaranteed to raise at least a smile.
Everyone concerned with Body Work should be proud of what they’ve accomplished here. Comics are all too often thought of as storyboards for TV or film, but this is a worthy extension to the world that already exists in the novels, one that also deserves to be taken on its own merits, to be acknowledged as more than a spin-off or an adaptation. While it can walk hand in hand with the novels, it never feels like it has to; a true Peter Grant story is being told here, and it’s hugely entertaining. Comic fans who haven’t read the books will find it refreshing and darkly humorous, while existing Peter Grant fans will be delighted to know that nothing has been compromised. Books and comics exist separately, and while each can be read in isolation, both can also be regarded as part of the same whole, which is no mean feat.
Hats off to publishers Titan for producing such a good package here, one that I’m sure I’m going to read many times. More than a worthy introduction to the novels or something to keep the fans happy while they wait for the next, it’s something fresh and vibrant; it’s addictive, fascinating, amusing and – above all – true to itself as well as its source material. With a new story arc starting soon, Body Work looks set to be just the start of a fantastic journey down the Rivers of London.