I must confess that I, like many other products of the American school system, have never read The Hunchback of Notre Dame. But, I did the next best thing; I watched the 1996 Disney travesty. So, when I say that this new adaptation is an accurate one, I guess what I mean is that it appears to match up well to the Wikipedia plot summary. The point I’m trying to make is that I approached this comic only as someone who knew that we are not headed for happily ever after.
Tim Conrad’s adaptation doesn’t get any bonus points for the story, which is a classic for a very good reason. Conrad does, however, get tremendous credit for his adaptation. There is a lot of information to get across, and he does so quite effectively. Most of the story is told by an omniscient third person narrator, but even when the story is at its most expository, it doesn’t feel forced.
I wasn’t a fan of the art at first. It isn’t bad, but it feels like it is straight out of the Sunday comic pages. After a bit, though, I realized that the art has this tendency to get out of the way and let the story tell itself. The art here is never too realistic and occasionally veers into surreal territory as it reflects the torments suffered by the characters.
And, oh boy, is there suffering. I’m not talking about Hostel-style suffering, but good, old-fashioned tragedy. This is the real version of the story and (here are those spoilers) everybody dies. Ultimately, nobody realizes the error of their ways, nobody repents, and everybody suffers for the sins of others. If you don’t need to see the Disney-fication of a work of literature to enjoy it, this is a great comic. Tim Conrad does an admirable job of letting Hugo’s genius shine through.
Five singing and dancing gargoyles out of five.