When I saw that I had the opportunity to review The Phantom of the Opera graphic novel, my first thought was, is it going to play music when I open it, like one of those novelty greeting cards? Then I read a little further into the email from A Wave Blue World and knew that I needed to review this title. You see, Hungarian artist Varga Tomi doesn’t take the same approach as Andrew Lloyd Webber or Joel Schumacher. Instead, Tomi gives readers a direct adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel, the inspiration for every other version of The Phantom of the Opera most of us have likely seen before.
Every artistic detail in this graphic novel is gorgeous. From the intricate page layouts to the color choices, to the sophisticated lettering, every page of this book is a work of art. Before starting in on this adaptation, Tomi traveled to Paris to study the city’s architecture. The sketches he made during his travels are directly transposed onto the page. Many panels are framed by the opera house’s architectural design and the building itself looks real. This turns the opera house into a player in the story and not just a background setting.
Tomi’s color choices further elevate his illustrations of the opera house. Tomi uses soft, warm colors for flashbacks. These colors reflect Raoul’s fond memories of his childhood with Christine. The scenes set beneath the opera house really look like they’re set in a cave. Tomi colors these scenes while taking into consideration where the light source is located in each panel. The shadows created by this effect add intensity to scenes that are already spooky.
My only complaint about the art is that I found it difficult to tell certain characters a part. This was especially true for minor characters that appear briefly in a scene and then aren’t seen again until later. Despite this complaint, I do need to mention that the Phantom is very creepy. In other adaptations, the Phantom looks more or less like a normal guy until his mask is removed. Tomi’s Phantom looks like there is something off about him, even when he’s wearing the mask. Tomi draws him with a sinister air, even in the scenes that are set in innocuous locales, such as the parlor of the opera house.
For those who have only seen the musical, the story from the original novel plays out a little differently. Leroux’s novel is a classic example of gothic fiction. These days most people hear “gothic” and think of stories set in a creepy old mansion. With the opera house as a grand backdrop, Tomi chooses to focus on the other elements of gothic fiction, namely hints of the supernatural, an air of forbidden romance, and characters cursed with dark fates. Even though there are differences between the musical’s story and the novel’s, the big moments are still present in the graphic novel, such as the chandelier crash, the masquerade ball, and the underground river. Not to sound like a broken record, but thanks to Tomi’s artistic talents, these big moments look amazing.
This graphic novel adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera is perfect for fans of gothic fiction. It’s the sort of book that a person could buy solely to look at the art. Admittedly, the story within may not appeal to everyone, as it’s different from the version with which they’re most familiar. Tomi also presents a faithful adaptation of Leroux’s novel and doesn’t update any of the language for a modern audience. This doesn’t make for the easiest read for those who aren’t used to reading works from the last century. For those who like the story of The Phantom of the Opera, but don’t care for musicals, this graphic novel is a perfect compromise. If after reading this review, you’re unsure as to whether you want to buy this graphic novel, check out our preview. Don’t be surprised if the beautiful art wins you over immediately.
Story: Gaston Leroux Script: Varga Tomi Art: Varga Tomi Letters by Varga Tomi
Story/Adaptation: 10 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.5 Reccomendation: Read
A Wave Blue World provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review