The Dark Tales series, published by Canterbury Classics, is a collection of four graphic novels, each a new version of an old classic. The series includes two fairy tales, a Sherlock Holmes story, and one of H.P. Lovecraft’s most famous works. Each graphic novel begins with an introduction explaining the origin of the story and the illustrator’s interpretation, in addition to a dramatis personae (“persons of the drama”), which includes an illustration of each character. This is particularly helpful when you’re reading and you forget which middle-aged man is which (I’m looking at you, The Hound of the Baskervilles). I really enjoyed all four of these books, but I did enjoy some more than others, so I will review them in order, from mostly liked to absolutely loved, which coincidentally is also the order in which I read them.
Dark Tales: The Hound of the Baskervilles is an adaptation of the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, with illustrations by Dave Shephard. In his introduction, Shephard explains how this novel was the start of today’s modern detective story. If you’re looking for a graphic novel of a Sherlock episode, this isn’t really it. Conan Doyle’s story has a twist that today’s reader will definitely be familiar with, and Sherlock Holmes barely appears. The plot moves very quickly, but it is mostly just people speaking to one another about the danger they are in and the mystery that needs to be solved. The illustrations are lovely to look at, and it’s an easy book to get through, but it really didn’t engage me like some of the others.
Dark Tales: The Call of Cthulhu is an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s famous story, with illustrations again by Dave Shephard. I really enjoyed this one, because beyond Cthulhu’s presence in modern popular culture, I knew nothing about the story. Shephard has adapted this story to create an ominous tale of one man’s journey to discover the truth about Cthulhu and the cult created in its name. The unresolved ending left me thinking about the story and the consequences of the beliefs humans hold. Although, as with The Hound of the Baskervilles, Shephard jumped from scene to scene quickly and with little explanation, and the similar looks of the characters made it challenging to remember who they all were.
Dark Tales: The Snow Queen is an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s story, with illustrations by Emilie Majarian. My only familiarity with this story was Disney’s Frozen, and reading this graphic novel taught me that the original tale is very different. The Snow Queen is about young Gerda and her quest to save her best friend, Kay, when a demon poisons his heart and the Snow Queen captures him. In her introduction, Majarian explains how she illustrated the Snow Queen to be much more ferocious than the original, even taking on animal qualities sometimes. Her illustrations do not disappoint. The Snow Queen is a terrifying opponent for small Gerda, and I loved seeing Gerda do all she can to save her best friend. The illustrations were striking, and the story moved quickly but clearly. This was a great way to learn the real story behind Frozen and an excellent adaptation of a classic tale.
Dark Tales: Beauty and the Beast is an adaptation of Jeanne-Marie Leprince’s version of the tale, with illustrations by Pete Katz. Katz explains in his introduction how he chose to add a villain to his version of the tale, which comes in the form of a demon who plagues the castle in which the Beast lives. This version also has Beauty’s two siblings, who are reminiscent of the stepsisters in the story of Cinderella. The basics from the Disney movie are in here, but there are many differences, all of which I found very satisfying. Katz has depicted Beauty as a “strong, courageous, and skilled” woman who “has a large hand in the outcome of her story.” I won’t spoil it for you, but the ending really is amazing. If only they’d read this version before writing the 2017 Disney film.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this series. Several of these stories were entirely unfamiliar to me, and I most likely would not have ever read the original tales. The graphic novel format makes these classics extremely accessible and enjoyable. If you have ever been curious about the original stories behind Sherlock Holmes, Cthulhu, the Snow Queen, or Beauty and the Beast, I definitely recommend picking up these novels.
A copy of the Dark Tales graphic novel series was provided by the publisher for review.