If you love Shakespeare’s plays but haven’t read a graphic novel adaptation, “Romeo and Juliet” is a great place to start.
In this adaptation published by independent company SelfMadeHero, the Montagues and Capulets are rivaling Yazuka (organized crime) families. The artwork includes traditional manga iconography.
Leong uses elements of nature to depict the characters’ emotions. In the scene where Romeo is weeping about Rosaline, the illustrator uses rain pouring down in the background as visual metaphor.
Flowers are often used in manga to depict romance. The cherry blossom (sakura) flower can symbolize love. During Romeo and Juliet’s wedding day, sakura flowers are in the background to represent their passion.
The manga style often uses miniature versions of the characters with super-exaggerated facial expressions to lighten serious situations. These are known as chibis. A chibi Juliet yelling at the nurse adds comedy just before the play becomes tragic.
In contrast, Stan Lee, Terry Dougas, Max Work, and Skan Srisuwan present the dystopian “Romeo and Juliet: The War”.
The graphic novel is the first of a three book deal between Lee’s company POW! Entertainment and Dougas’ company 1821 Comics.
Unlike the manga version, much of the dialogue in this graphic novel is altered with simplified and occasionally crude language, losing the poetry of Shakespeare’s original text.
The two “Romeo and Juliet” graphic novels convey the spirit of Shakespeare’s work. Much like dramatic interpretations of the the play, it’s up to the audience to measure the effect of the stylized approach to the work.
Reading either graphic novel of “Romeo and Juliet” is a unique way to see the play come to life.
Watch the video trailer for “Romeo and Juliet: The War” by clicking here.
Click here for more information on the Manga Shakespeare series.
Read all of the “Romeo and Juliet” reviews, or post your own, on Stratford Festival Reviews.