Black is based off the novel of the same name by Ted Dekker. Although I'd read and enjoyed all of Dekker's previous books, Black was the one that made me a die-hard fan. Dekker's books are all tales of good versus evil in its rawest form. The physical world, the supernatural world, and other realities entirely are all intertwined in his work. Black takes place in two very different realities that have startling connections. While it is not his most haunting, nor his most thought-provoking novel, it is the one that keeps you stuck in your seat until you have finished the very last page - a cliff-hanger that makes you run to the bookstore to get the next book in the trilogy. Like all of Dekker's books, Black is incredibly visually-oriented, which made me excited to see it in a graphic novel.
The graphic novel starts off pretty much the same way as the novel, though without some of the same background information that proves helpful later on. The dialogue is very similar, as well as the settings. This is where the graphic novel starts to fail from the very beginning, however. Dekker includes an incredible amount of detail in his books; detail that somehow makes the most unbelievable situations real. With no means of bringing over the same level of detail to the graphic novel, the same situations are merely ludicrous, stretching even the best imagination to its limits. For example, when the main character goes from getting off of work to being shot at to following a furry white bat while being chased by talking black bats in the novel, it almost makes sense (trust me, it does - you'll have to read some of Dekker's work to believe me, but it does). In the graphic novel, it just looks like some guy that you couldn't care less about goes from drinking coffee to getting shot at to being chased by talking black bats while following a furry white bat. Right. This is probably the point at which you put down this graphic novel and move on to something that makes more sense - which is pretty much anything other than this book. Nonetheless, as a fan of the novel, I kept reading.
The sequencing of the book did not much improve as I continued to read. Events were extremely choppy, and there was no reasoning apparent behind character development or interaction. There were sudden, unexplained increases of knowledge (whereas the learning process was explained in the novel), and characters that were previously enemies suddenly became friends with no reason why.
Not only was the adaptation of the story flawed, but the other aspects of the graphic novel were just as off. The penciller wasn't my favorite - not the worst I've ever seen, but far from the best. Two things about his style particularly irked me - the facial expressions of the some of the characters were unlike anything I've ever seen a human face do. Also, his version of the "other reality" struck me as odd. In the novel, it is portrayed almost like a paradise. In the graphic novel, it came across looking like Dr. Seuss's world. (Nothing against Dr. Seuss, but his world is not my version of paradise.) The colorist sometimes reinforced that image, but at other times managed to bring across the otherworldliness of the novel without coming across like a fantastical children's book.
Two very important people whose work I normally take for granted in comic books are the inker and the letterer. I found out in this book how much they can make or break a page. Unfortunately, it was mostly the latter. The inks came across as harsh and unwieldy at times. The lettering mostly worked (although on a random note, I did notice that one of the fonts used for the evil bats' dialogue is similar to the one I use in my e-mail signature at work, which slightly disturbed me), but it failed miserably on a couple of pages. In doing so, it pretty much ruined the effect the storytellers were trying to bring across.
In the end, the graphic novel occasionally brought out the spirit of the novel, but was mostly just a chopped-up retelling of a story that should have been left alone. Definitely go out and buy the novel, but skip the graphic novel.