Over the past couple years I have begun to appreciate the art and promise of the graphic novel. Not as a ‘children’s version’ but as something that can be a true art form to itself. I do not think that John Lewis’ memoir in the March Trilogy would be as good in narrative text. The graphics of the March trilogy were essential to making it so good. But I am not sure that the graphic novel of Kindred is up to that standard.
It is not that Kindred is a bad adaptation or a bad graphic novel. It stayed pretty close to the original in story and I liked the art. But the novel was, in my opinion, the best novel of a very good novelist. Octavia Butler captured not just the horror of slavery for the slave, but the horror of slavery for everyone involved. I think some of the nuance of the novel was (necessarily) lost in the graphic novel adaptation. A graphic novel, even one that is over 200 pages, can’t really tell the same story as a 300 page novel.
I feel much the same way as I do about the radio play adaptation of Ender’s Game, Ender Alive. As a radio play I thought it was really good. There were several parts that I think were better than the original audiobook and novel. But as a whole, the cuts that were necessary to make it into a radio drama were too much and it harmed the depth of the overall story.
Kindred is a modern classic. It is hard to read, but one of the best fictional books that I have read about the reality of slavery in the United States. No book can be everything. So I don’t want to evaluate Kindred, the graphic novel, based on how good that the original novel (and the audiobook) were. But I can’t separate them.
If you are reading fresh and haven’t read Kindred and are a fan of graphic novels, I think this is worth reading. Especially if you find it on sale like I did. But for most people I would recommend the print or audiobook.