The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Graphic Novel) by Denise Mina

Usually, I stay away from modern graphic novels because they tend to be too graphic in their depiction of sex and violence. I belong to the old school of subtlety. Nothing is as powerful as the suggestion of a theme. However, I made an exception this time in the case of Vertigo’s adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

I have never read the novel version but I saw both the Swedish and Hollywood film adaptations. (I prefer the former.) The story itself is a good mystery which was why I was interested in watching the Daniel Craig film and bought the graphic novel. I want to experience it again and again, not the molestation but the way Mikael Blomkvist went about in his investigation.

The first volume concentrates on Lisbeth Salander which in a sense is just proper since she is the girl with the dragon tattoo. Mina’s storytelling is compact like every panel is essential to the story—and it is. One does not get the feeling that Vertigo is just stretching the story to justify the installment treatment. Manco and Mutti’s illustration is not my style but perfect for the theme. And it is interesting that there is a credit for coloring when the colorists probably took the tattoo concept too seriously and literally as almost every panel is or has black.

The second volume was kind of a letdown for me.  Part 2 picks up from where it left off. I say “kind of” as it just continues its storytelling without the usual “Previously on…” opening. Gives me the feeling that the original concept for the adaptation is to publish it in one issue. But that’s not what makes it disappointing.

Part 2 felt like a hurried reading like the way soap operas or operatic shows build up a lot of suspense and then just hastily resolve all loose ends because they have run out of time—and logical answers. The investigation came to a quick solution as soon as the two leads meet and go to bed. (The Vanger patriarch should have skipped Blomkvist altogether and hired Lisbeth.) There should have been more suspense build-up where the reader is part of the discovery, not just a passive observer. The explicit panels could have given way to this.

Vertigo teases with the next installment, “The Girl Who Played with Fire” but I think my fire for the graphic adaptation has been doused.

-Elizabeth

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