I must admit I haven’t ready nearly as much of Neil Gaiman’s work as I probably should. I’m most familiar with Gaiman through the book, Coraline, but his reputation precedes him. I can barely go a week without colleagues recommending one of his books to me. Shirking suggestions to read American Gods or The Sandman, I decided to pick up an adaptation of one of Gaiman’s lesser-known stories: Snow, Glass, Apples (specifically the graphic novel adaptation illustrated by Colleen Doran).
Snow, Glass, Apples is a re-imagining of the classic Snow White fairytale. The twist, however, is that the story is told from the perspective of the tale’s villain: the evil queen. The queen in this version attempts to save her kingdom from the monstrous Snow White, instead of the other way around. If that sounds vaguely familiar, this type of retelling became popular in the ’90s. Wicked was released just one year after the original Snow, Glass, Apples, and, more recently, the film, Maleficent, tackled the idea.
Colleen Doran’s stain glass-inspired art style is married to the prose to give Snow, Glass, Apples more life than ever before. Her powerful hand-drawn style makes the book instantly recognizable and stand out from previous printings. The detail work on some of these pages is incredible, deserving of being a poster or print on their own. If you want to get really nitpicky, some of the panels get a little hard to follow with so much detail, and, in at least two places, the action on the page differs from what the narration describes. For the most part, though, the medieval style complements the narrative well.
Gaiman’s grim storytelling is on full display in this simple tale, with vampirism, necrophilia, and immolation all cramming themselves into 72 pages. This isn’t a story for the faint of heart. The sex and violence teeters on the edge of gratuitous, but for the bleak tone, it ultimately works. The pacing, on the other hand, could have been tighter; the third act wraps up shockingly quick in comparison to the more calculated pace of the rest of the book. It does manage to right itself for a horrifying conclusion that left me thinking about it long after I’d closed the book.
Snow, Glass, Apples is different from the usual graphic novel. From its dreamlike narration to its visual style, it was more of an experience than a novel. Horror lovers will find this book delightful, but its pitch-black narrative will turn off more casual readers, especially young readers. Consider giving it a read if you’re looking for an especially grim Grimm fairytale.
Creative Team: Neil Gaiman (Writer), Colleen Doran (Artist)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
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