Review – Peter David’s Artful #1 (Action Lab)

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Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment
Writer: Peter David
Adaptation by: Nicole D’Andria
Artist: Laura Neubert
Release Date: 21st December 2016

An adaptation of the novel by award-winning author and comics legend Peter David, Artful expands on the story of one of literature’s most intriguing characters, ‘The Artful Dodger’ from Oliver Twist.  However, the “twist” here – pun intended – is the insertion of a cult of Vampires into the existing story, along with the reveal that some of the well-known characters from the Charles Dickens novel may have actually had some vampiric tendencies on the down-low.

As premises go, it’s a pretty fantastic one, and while these genre mashups to existing historical and fictional tales can sometimes feel a little hokey, David’s critically acclaimed novel does a fantastic job of making this new status quo fit as naturally as possible.  I’m not fully familiar with the original prose, so I can’t comment with much authority on how just well Nicole D’Andria has managed to adapt the source material, but what I can say is that this first issue flows smoothly throughout, and seems to lend itself well to the comic book format.

D’Andria leaves the bulk of David’s dialogue intact here, balancing humour and exposition while staying authentic to its “evenin’ guv’nor” Oliver Twist roots.  Plus, while this first issue is primarily concerned with introducing us to this slightly unfamiliar world, it does go a long way towards establishing the darker tone of the series, while still managing to provide a few smiles along the way courtesy of the titular Dodger’s trademark charm.

The artwork, provided here by Laura Neubert, is solid enough, if a little uneven in places.  The inking is also a little heavy-handed at times, but there’s an impressive sense of expression to her characters that does its best to sell the humour of David’s words.  While it’s certainly nothing to write home about, it’s also nothing to get too upset about either, and does a solid job of keeping the story moving throughout this first issue as the true nature of vampiric threat is revealed and the Dodger meets an aristocratic lady on the streets of London who may be a little out of her depth.

Overall then, Artful provides an even-handed adaptation of Peter David’s popular novel, and while there are some rough edges along the way, the strength of the premise and the charm and eloquence of the dialogue make this an utterly intriguing read.  If nothing else, reading this first issue has made me want to go and pick up the original novel to get the full experience, but I’m also going to be sticking with the rest of this series to see how the comic book version plays out.  Well worth a look.

Rating: 4/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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