Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a great story. It’s simple, it has a good message, and it’s got some really great imagery. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t have at least a cursory familiarity with the tale, as it has been adapted and reimagined countless times throughout the years. Some of these adaptations are successful, but most feel like tired retreads of the same traditional story. One of the most recent adaptations is Rod Espinosa’s Dark Horse graphic novel, A Christmas Carol: The Night That Changed the Life of Eliza Scrooge, and, unfortunately, it lands squarely in the latter camp.
One of the book’s biggest issues is the decision to change the sex of the main character. I went into the story hoping to see some interesting developments resulting from Scrooge being female, but all I got was a faithful adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Eliza Scrooge’s story is exactly the same, which makes the gender switch decision feel entirely arbitrary. I really can’t figure it out. Was it an attempt to market the book to a female demographic? It doesn’t feel that way. There are also a couple of incongruities in the story that arise from making Scrooge a woman, such as how a girl from the lower class of society could become a rich and successful business owner in the Victorian era, which, as eras go, was not the most progressive. The story is also altered in a few small ways, like an added scene at the beginning in which Scrooge visits her textile factory to rebuke her employees for having a Christmas celebration. Here we meet Caroline, Scrooge’s “old friend,” who works as the factory manager. Who is this woman who has managed to stay friends with the miserable Eliza Scrooge? What is their history? Surely, we will discover more when the Ghost of Christmas Past pays a visit. Nope! Just a random new character we learn almost nothing about, and who serves no purpose other than to act as a foil for Scrooge. The story is otherwise completely faithful to the source, so these tweaks feel a little weak and out of place.
I also wasn’t a huge fan of the book’s art. Rod Espinosa pulls double duty on this title, both adapting and illustrating it, and the art just feels uninspired. It’s done in a very simple anime sort of style, and the characters often look a bit inconsistent from panel to panel. A few things seem muddy as well, since Scrooge’s nephew Fred refers to her at one point as a woman who is “still pretty even in [her] advanced age,” but she never appears to be any older than her mid-30s. The ghosts are also somewhat boring, looking like they often do, with the notable exception of Jacob Marley. The book really kicks into high gear when Marley first appears, and everything about that sequence looks fantastic. He’s a legitimately frightening specter, and even his lettering is creepy! This was definitely a section that stood out; I only wish the rest of the book had that same level of enthusiasm.
A Christmas Carol: The Night That Changed the Life of Eliza Scrooge would have been a solid, if unimaginative, graphic novel adaptation of a classic Christmas story, but for its seemingly arbitrary changes that serve as obstacles to the storytelling instead of adding anything new. I would recommend just reading the novel instead, or watch The Muppet Christmas Carol, because that movie is amazing.