The Graveyard Book Volume 1 and Volume 2 are based on the Neil Gaiman middle reader novel of the same name. I have not read a lot of Gaiman, but what I have, I have not necessarily loved. (Though the movie Coraline was fun and the audio of it was an experience.) However, P. Craig Russell’s graphic novel adaptation shows how Gaiman’s reputation might have been earned.
The two volumes are an interestingly wild ride. I wish I had found a complete one volume (hence why I dashed off to the library before I had finished volume one, I did not want to forget anything from book one). It is a serious story with dark and dry humor. You need to take your time reading as there are many levels to the story. Each chapter is set up slightly different with the passing of time. There can be as little as a year or two that has passed or could be several years that passed all at once. There is this classic feeling to the text. It feels as if it was written in the early 1900’s or even earlier. There is a classic feel to the setting as well. It could be set from the mid-1900’s to as late as the 1980’s. There is an other-worldliness as if this is a parallel world to ours. This is highlighted by the fact our hero, Nobody Owens (or Bod) speaks to ghosts, his main guardian is a creature of the night (neither alive nor dead, which is important later). Bod also can “fade” out of immediate sight, walk in dreams, and other supernatural events occur.
The story is complex. It starts with a family’s murder (yes there is blood, but not gore) and the assassin Jack, is to kill the baby as well. However, due to strange events, the baby is not there. It has wandered off, finding refugee in a local graveyard. Here he is raised by the ghosts (the Owens becoming his parents) and a special guest of the graveyard, Silas agrees to be his guardian (making sure food, clothing and other needs the ghosts cannot do are met). The graveyard itself is also a caregiver; a place where Bod learns about both life and death, yet unable to leave the gates as the graveyard protects him. The first volume is slower paced than the second, which almost feels rushed in places.
Each chapter is illustrated by different artists. The different illustrators are at once not an issue as they are similar, but sometimes it can take you out of the story (such as the character Silas has a different look each time). I am unfamiliar with most of the illustrators, or not aware of having seen them before. They include (but not limited to): Kevin Nowlan, Scott Hampton, Jill Thompson, and Galen Showman. They are typical graphic novel artwork. Color plays a large roll and looking at details will tell pieces of the story. The biggest issues are due to the physical darkness of the pages (it is set mostly in a graveyard and most action occurring at night) and the text blends into the art. This is because of the darkness and there are multiple panels to most pages, squishing everything together. Too much text has been crammed into it, making the text hard to see/read. This caused me to not want to finish at times.
Overall, this book must be read. If I try to explain it, I have told the whole story. One day can fill an entire chapter or several years. Bod finds out about how every child must one day leave the nest, must learn to live and how to eventually die. This is, in many ways, just a natural result of his years hiding from the man who wishes to kill him. These complex, seemingly contradictions make this book in many ways not for the target audience (aged 10 to 14). However, I assume, but not having read the novel, I would say that perhaps the book is set younger, but the graphic novel was adapted for an older crowd. Mostly this is due to the maturity of the artwork. But perhaps, like many books I read as a kid, I would have enjoyed the murder-mystery aspect at that younger age and left the interpretations for when I was an adult.