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‘The Ring of The Nibelung:’ Advance Hardcover Review

P. Craig Russell’s The Ring of The Nibelung is a startling and completely enjoyable adaptation of Richard Wagner’s musical dramas. In four multi-part installments — “The Rhinegold;” “The Valkyrie;” “Siegfried;” and “The Twilight of The Gods” — the reader is treated to first-rate renderings that are as memorable as they are beautiful. With a cast of gorgeously realized people, places, and things, The Ring of The Nibelung leaves the reader both stunned and enlightened — and, more importantly, with a deep desire to visit Russell’s source material. This is a high-quality and extremely value-friendly purchase that will, hopefully, make its way into school libraries and personal collections across the country this fall.

Throughout, the illustrations are dynamic, both individually and in their particular arrangements. Dashing mermaids, clashing giants, battling Gods — all race up and down the pages, bringing turbulence and discord to pastoral and supernatural settings. Contemporary readers will find a great deal of pleasure in the way that many of the scenes are achingly familiar. J. R. R. Tolkien drew heavily from Wagner’s work on a number of occasions; however, just when you think that you know where the plot will go next, characters will act in unexpected and pleasing ways.

Those who come to this comic steeped in the dynamics of Greek and Roman mythology will enjoy the all-too-human desires of Wagner’s immortals. Petty, vulgar, conniving — but also capable of great love and devotion — these are deities worth knowing. In their lives and deaths, they convey all the hopes and dreams of the human condition — with enough action along the way to make even the most ardent John Woo fan wonder in amazement.

The work is colored by Lovern Kindzierski, and Kindzierski’s choices are often breathtaking. Deep greens and piercing blues frame mysterious forests and mountains.  The many settings for these dramas are, in and of themselves, worth the price of admission. These vistas are complemented in remarkable ways by Galen Showman’s lettering. Despite all the action, the prose is never cramped. In fact, it is remarkably legible, never crowding out the action — and always delivered in a way that draws the reader to the next panel, to the next enthralling moment.

Translated by Patrick Mason, the work avoids committing the primary sin of graphic novel adaptations of classic works: nothing is dumbed down, and nothing is overly complicated. Young and old readers alike will find the text accessible throughout, and this is one of the reasons why I am most excited about this book. Russell has made Wagner captivating and — importantly — interesting to new generations. If you enjoy high fantasy, giants, trolls, and violence — this is, indeed, a wonderful collection.

There are very few criticisms to be launched at such an accomplishment; however, I would recommend reading it with access to the actual music Wagner composed for these stories (readily available on YouTube). It will enlarge your appreciation of the tales and deepen your understanding of the major events and characters.




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