2020 is nearly over and it has been a rotten year. If there was anything to look forward to throughout this pandemic then it was film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune by Denis Villeneuve. Understandable, its release saw a postponement to the nominal date of October 2021. Luckily, there is plenty of other things going on with the Dune universe. Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson released the first novel of their prequel trilogy, Dune: The Duke of Caladan, in October. The comic book adaptation of their prior trilogy, Great Houses of Dune, just started as well with two issues of Dune: House Atreides already released. However, there was one thing I particularly desired, that is the official comic adaptation of the novel – Dune: The Graphic Novel. After one failed film adaptation and an OK series it feels great to get a new visual medium adaptation.
For those unfamiliar with the original novel and still doubting whether they want to see Dune starring Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson now have an alternative method to learn to love Dune. The first volume is with 178 pages easy to read and will quickly convince any lay fans that Dune is not a stuffy science fiction work about rockets, time travel and gizmos. Instead, Dune is a very personal story, with characters desiring power, wealth, love and revenge. Readers of this graphical novel discover Dune has many layers. The eponymous planet on which the story is set has many if its secrets woven into the story. Dune has a lot of intrigue and politics. It is House of Cards meets Game of Thrones. That will give you one idea as to why so many fans of the novel desire a faithful film adaptation.
A conventional adaptation
This adaptation of Dune is in most respects conventional, much to the collective sigh of the fan-base. The original Dune novel consists of three parts. It was originally published in a serial format before it was extensively reworked. The nominal division in three parts is a holdover. Dune: The Graphic Novel volume 1 thus adapts “Book 1: Dune”. It roughly covers the events on planet Caladan where Paul, the Duke’s son, is forced to undergo the Gom Jabbar test to the arrival of House Atreides on planet Arrakis. There we see House Atreides settle in amongst the intrigue and politics that comes with spice production and their feud with House Harkonnen. Book 1 ends with the fall of House Atreides and the death of Duke Leto. The Harkonnen, aided by the emperor’s Sardaukar, wipe out the Atreides army and force Lady Jessica and Paul Atreides into the desert.
The adaptation makes a few changes. Some sequences are shorter, but the larger beats of the story remain intact. One substantial deviation was just after Paul had undergone the Gom Jabbar at the hands of Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam. In a three-way conversation between Paul, his mother Jessica and Mohiam the topic of the fall of House Atreides is discussed. Mohiam hints it is inevitable, much to the fury of Paul. In the graphical adaptation Paul is just as furious but the conversation at its cause is not there. Here the adaptation was edited too heavily and it feels like the comic is missing a few panels. In other areas in which sequences were shortened (which I understand and approve) there is a little bit of transition dialogue. Authors Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson made mostly sensible alterations to Frank Herbert’s original work.
Removal of exposition
Last year I read the original Dune novel again and I wrote a retro review. I noted that despite the author’s forward thinking some aspects of the story have become dated. This adaptation makes subtle changes to the setting: there are some women amongst the ranks of House Atreides. The city of Arrakeen that has become the base for House Atreides is shown to be much larger than in previous adaptations. Many panels focus on the industrial efforts that are necessary to mine the spice mélange. The original novel has a plethora of exposition on topics such as galactic politics, its feudal society, the military situation, religion, climate and much more. Despite the authors ingenuity there were lots of possible plot holes. But the exposition is unnecessary for Dune: The Graphic Novel. Thus, it has a much faster pace.
I mentioned I looked forward to Dune: The Graphic Novel because it is a visual format. Despite the loss of exposition, I do so enjoy living in the Dune universe. Reading about a story is one thing but I want to see it as well, to experience it even more. The art made for this graphical novel adaptation is gorgeous. The drawings are detailed. When the illustrators Raúl Allén and Patricia Martin decide to focus on the story then the characters are sublimely depicted. When a piece of scenery is the focus the panels span full-pages with exquisite details. Their efforts culminate in the panel in which a sandworm eats a spice harvester. The art is just breathtaking. The ruin of House Atreides and the death of the Duke is a dark affair, one I always hate to experience but the illustrators force me to.
DUNE: The Graphic Novel has the right looks
Initially I did have some problems adjusting to the looks of some characters. I thought Duke Leto, Lady Jessica and Paul looked a bit generic. Especially compared with characters such as Thufir Hawatt and the Baron Harkonnen. Yet, they their depictions grew on me. They are not distracting which would have been the risk had the illustrators made different interpretations of the source material. As the story progresses and becomes more intense so the depictions of the main characters. This is especially true for Lady Jessica whose skills as a Bene Gesserit become more pronounced as does her femininity. Overall, this graphic novel adaption stays true to the long-format of the novel. Fans will find it an enjoyable read while those interested in Dune should be aware they will be sucked into the franchise just as a spice factory with no carryall support.
The last page of Dune: The Graphic Novel volume 1 lists the release date for the next volume as Spring 2022. Which is later than I thought but I can wait 14 to 15 months. Until then, there will be plenty more Dune to experience. Do pick up this graphic novel adaptation. It is just perfect! Don’t forget to check out my dedicated Dune page!