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by Denise MIna and Andrea Mutti
Vertigo, November 2012
152 pages
ISBN: 1401235573

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

After a mega-bestselling trilogy, film adaptations in two different languages, and generally being immersed into popular culture for the better part of the last five years, is there anything more than can be done with Steig Larsson's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and is there anything more we can say about it? With the increasing volume of graphic novelizations of popular works being published, it was no surprise when graphic novel imprint Vertigo and acclaimed crime fiction author Denise Mina announced their intention bring the trilogy out in graphic form in six separate volumes.

The story of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist is familiar enough by now to anyone who has even only a fleeting interest in this title. The disgraced journalist and the troubled hacker's journey into the convoluted world of corporate politics, the family intrigue, and most centrally, the running theme of misogyny are well represented in this version as well. If you loved Larsson's work, you will no doubt enjoy this rendering and Larsson's estate and Vertigo no doubt made a wise decision when they commissioned someone as talented as Denise Mina to produce the text.

This is a beautifully rendered graphic novel that is reasonably faithful to the source material. This Lisbeth Salander is perhaps a bit more vulnerable and less bizarre than the original and Blomkvist is shown as a more generic figure than he is in the original novels, but overall this is basically in line with the story we have come to know. Purists may not be satisfied, but casual fans will be content with Mina's adaptation of the story. The artwork is gorgeous and the themes of the novels are kept intact, and this version seems to have a bit more heart than its predecessors—though one cannot be sure if that's a good or a bad thing.

But for me, the problem with THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, no matter who is telling the particular version of the story, is that the tale itself, despite its pride in its Swedish Noir tradition and its real sense of a time and place and threatening atmosphere, well, there's not much there to work with. The story has always seemed much weaker and frankly pedestrian than its set-up promises - and as engaging and interesting as the characters may be, each iteration of this story has suffered as a result.

This volume only, of course, covers roughly the first half of the events of the initial book in the Millennium series, so there is not a complete story here. One fears that the diehard fans who might be apt to buy six graphic novels will be put off by the composites of scenes and changes in characterizations; while more casual fans will not be too keen on the investment that six books would entail. Nevertheless, the work of Mina and illustrator Andrea Mutti is certainly admirable and is a good introduction to Lisbeth Salander for those daunted by the task of taking on a densely written 500+ page novel. All but the most devoted fans of the Larsson books or the film adaptations who are willing to accept a slightly different version of the story will be intrigued by this translation of them into a graphic mode.

§ Ben Neal is a librarian who likes to fancy himself an amateur writer, humorist, detective, and coffee connoisseur in his spare time. He can be reached at beneneal@indiana.edu.

Reviewed by Ben Neal, December 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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