Why You Should Read Snow White: A Graphic Novel - A Review and Recommendation
Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan
If you think you know the story of Snow White, think again. In this darkly stylized graphic novel by award-winning illustrator Matt Phelan, the classic fairy tale is reimagined in Depression-era Manhattan. The scene: New York City, 1928. The dazzling lights cast shadows that grow ever darker as the glitzy prosperity of the Roaring Twenties screeches to a halt. Enter a cast of familiar characters: a young girl, Samantha White, returning after being sent away by her cruel stepmother, the Queen of the Follies, years earlier; her father, the King of Wall Street, who survives the stock market crash only to suffer a strange and sudden death; seven street urchins, brave protectors for a girl as pure as snow; and a mysterious stock ticker that holds the stepmother in its thrall, churning out ticker tape imprinted with the wicked words "Another . . . More Beautiful . . . KILL." In this moody, cinematic new telling of a beloved fairy tale, extraordinary graphic novelist Matt Phelan captures the essence of classic film noir on the pageand draws a striking distinction between good and evil.
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The Art Style and the Mood
One of the most striking features of Snow White: A Graphic Novel is its black-and-white art style. Phelan uses a minimalist approach to create expressive illustrations that convey emotion, tension, and drama. The use of shadows, silhouettes, and contrasts creates a noir atmosphere that suits the dark tone of the story. The book also features some splashes of color, such as red for blood or lips, that highlight key moments or symbols. The visuals are influenced by silent movies, vintage posters, comic strips, and newspaper clippings, creating a sense of authenticity and nostalgia.
The art style also serves to differentiate this adaptation from other versions of Snow White. While most retellings tend to emphasize the fantasy elements or the romance aspects of the story, Phelan focuses on the realism and the mystery. He strips away some of the familiar details, such as the magic mirror or the poisoned apple, and replaces them with more realistic or symbolic ones, such as the stock ticker or a window display. He also adds some twists and surprises that keep readers on their toes.
Some of the most memorable scenes in Snow White: A Graphic Novel are those that showcase Phelan's artistic skills and storytelling abilities. For example, there is a scene where Snow White escapes from her stepmother's assassin through a crowded subway station. The panels are arranged in a circular motion that mimics Snow White's movement and creates a sense of urgency and confusion. Another example is a scene where Snow White meets her prince charming, who is actually a detective investigating her father's death. The panels are framed by a heart-shaped window that contrasts with the dark background and suggests a romantic connection.
The Characters and Themes
Another aspect that makes Snow White: A Graphic Novel stand out is its characterization. Phelan manages to give depth and personality to each character while staying true to their original roles. He also updates them to fit into his chosen setting and time period.
Snow White is portrayed as a smart, brave, and kind-hearted girl who has suffered a lot but still maintains her innocence and optimism. She is also resourceful and adventurous, as she explores New York City with her new friends, who are not dwarves but street kids with nicknames like Big Ben or Tiny Tim. They provide comic relief but also loyalty and protection for Snow White.
She is obsessed with her appearance and her status, and she uses her charm and her money to manipulate others. She is also paranoid and jealous of Snow White, who threatens to surpass her in beauty and popularity. She hires a hunter, who is actually a hitman, to kill Snow White, but he fails and falls in love with her instead.
The prince is portrayed as a handsome and noble detective who is investigating the mysterious death of Snow White's father. He is also curious and compassionate, as he tries to help Snow White and uncover the truth. He is drawn to Snow White's innocence and beauty, and he saves her from a near-fatal coma caused by a poisoned cigarette.
The characters in Snow White: A Graphic Novel reflect some of the historical and social aspects of the 1920s and 1930s. The story touches on topics such as the Wall Street crash, the Great Depression, the rise of Hollywood, the Prohibition era, the Hooverville camps, and the World's Fair. The characters also represent some of the stereotypes or archetypes of that time period, such as the tycoon, the flapper, the gangster, the orphan, and the detective.
The story also explores some of the themes and messages of the original fairy tale, such as good and evil, beauty and power, love and sacrifice. Phelan shows how these concepts are not always clear-cut or simple, but rather complex and nuanced. He also shows how they can be influenced by external factors or personal choices. For example, he shows how beauty can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how it is used or perceived. He also shows how love can be a source of happiness or pain, depending on how it is expressed or received.
The Reception and the Impact
Snow White: A Graphic Novel was well received by critics and readers alike. It received positive reviews from various publications and websites, such as Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Boing Boing, and The New York Times. It was praised for its originality, creativity, artistry, and storytelling. It was also nominated for several awards and accolades, such as the Eisner Award for Best Publication for Teens, the Cybils Award for Young Adult Graphic Novels, the YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens list, and the ALA Notable Children's Books list.
Snow White: A Graphic Novel also contributes to the genre of graphic novels and the tradition of fairy tale retellings. It demonstrates how graphic novels can be a powerful and versatile medium for storytelling, combining words and images to create an immersive and engaging experience. It also demonstrates how fairy tales can be adapted and reinterpreted in different ways, reflecting different perspectives and contexts. It shows how fairy tales can be relevant and meaningful for modern audiences, while still preserving their timeless appeal.
In conclusion, Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan is a remarkable book that offers a fresh and captivating take on a classic fairy tale. It combines stunning black-and-white illustrations with a compelling plot that transports readers to Depression-era Manhattan. It features complex and interesting characters that embody some of the historical and social aspects of that time period. It also explores some of the themes and messages of the original story, such as good and evil, beauty and power, love and sacrifice. It is a book that will appeal to fans of graphic novels, fairy tales, history, mystery, romance, or simply good storytelling.
My personal opinion on this book is that it is one of the best graphic novels I have ever read. I was impressed by Phelan's artistic skills and his ability to create a noir atmosphere that suits the dark tone of the story. I was also intrigued by his characterization and his twists on some of the familiar elements of Snow White. I think he did a great job of balancing realism and fantasy, humor and drama, action and emotion. I think this book is a masterpiece that deserves more recognition and appreciation.
If you are interested in reading Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan, you can download it from various online platforms, such as Amazon Kindle, Google Play Books, Apple Books, or Kobo. You can also find it in your local library or bookstore. However you choose to read it, I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.
What is the genre of Snow White: A Graphic Novel?
Snow White: A Graphic Novel is a historical fiction graphic novel that retells the fairy tale of Snow White in a noir style.
Who is Matt Phelan and what are his other works?
Matt Phelan is an award-winning illustrator and graphic novelist who has illustrated many picture books and novels for young readers. Some of his other works include The Storm in the Barn, Bluffton, Around the World, and Knights vs. Dinosaurs.
How faithful is Snow White: A Graphic Novel to the original story by the Brothers Grimm?
Snow White: A Graphic Novel is loosely based on the original story by the Brothers Grimm, but it changes some of the details and adds some of its own. For example, it sets the story in New York City in the 1920s and 1930s, it replaces the magic mirror with a stock ticker, and it makes the prince a detective.
What are some of the historical references and influences in Snow White: A Graphic Novel?
Snow White: A Graphic Novel references and is influenced by some of the historical and social events and aspects of the 1920s and 1930s, such as the Wall Street crash, the Great Depression, the rise of Hollywood, the Prohibition era, the Hooverville camps, and the World's Fair. It also draws inspiration from silent movies, vintage posters, comic strips, and newspaper clippings.
How can I download Snow White: A Graphic Novel?
You can download Snow White: A Graphic Novel from various online platforms, such as Amazon Kindle, Google Play Books, Apple Books, or Kobo. You can also find it in your local library or bookstore.