`Grave Sight' is a graphic novel adaptation of the first book in Charlaine Harris's paranormal `Harper Connelly' series. `Sight' Volume 1 was released in June this year, with two more instalments due for release (the second instalment is coming in September).
When she was younger Harper Connelly was struck by lightning. Ever since then, she has been able to `sense' death. If she is near a dead body she can recount the final moments of the corpse's life, often giving clues as to the where, what, how and who of their death (and often, murder). Harper is the ultimate lemons into lemonade girl, turning her ability into a profession; she (along with her step-brother, Tolliver) tours the country, helping search for missing persons (for a price).
When `Grave Sight' begins, Harper finds herself in Sarne Arkansas, helping local law enforcement and a grieving family search for answers in a runaway teen cold case. But the longer Harper and Connelly stay, the messier their investigation gets. Harper finds more mysteries with her `sense' and the longer she stays in town, the murders keep piling up . . .
It seems that 2011 is the year of the underappreciated paranormal. I just recently read Volumes 1 and 2 of Richelle Mead's `Dark Swan' graphic novel, adapted from her least popular paranormal series of the same name (least popular in comparison to `Vampire Academy', mind you!). `Harper Connelly' is the same sort of beleaguered darling of literary juggernaut, Charlaine Harris.
Harris's `Southern Vampire: Sookie Stackhouse' series has been ruling bestseller lists and dominating the box with its HBO `True Blood' TV adaptation. By comparison, Harris's other work of paranormal fiction is an under-appreciated afterthought. For a little while there was rumblings that `Harper' could be as big as Sookie, especially when CBS bought the film and TV rights to Harris's work, with every intention of turning it into a TV series. But this year CBS passed on the `Harper Connelly' pilot and it looked as though Harper has missed her time in the spotlight . . . but now the series has been given a new (and better?) revisit, via the ever-popular graphic novel adaptation!
I have been a big fan of `Harper Connelly' for years now. It's not as supernatural as the `Sookie' books - there's not a vampire or werewolf in sight. But Harper has a somewhat similar `ability' to Sookie, not telepathy, but rather a sixth sense for death. Harper's world is our world, real life examining the supernatural from a realist perspective - and Harper is a protagonist dealing with other people's pessimism and blatant distrust of her and her abilities. In this series Charlaine can explore the `what if' aspects of the supernatural in everyday life.
The `Harper' series is darker than `Sookie' (or, rather, it's as dark as the most recent Sookie books). Not only is Harper frequently fleeing from pitch-fork-wielding townies who claim she is a witch, but Harper and Tolliver are dealing with their own grief over a missing person. When they were younger, Harper's older sister and Tolliver's step-sister was abducted while walking home from school . . . never to be seen nor heard from again. As Harper tours the country, selling her ability to uncover death, she is always on the lookout for Cameron, hoping that the next body she `senses' will be that of her missing sister.
The `Harper' series is dark indeed, as can be expected when it's all about a woman's ability to find the truth of death. But this is also a series with real heart - seen in the bond between Harper and Tolliver, and the step-siblings constant hunt for the truth about Cameron's abduction.
This graphic novel adaptation is covering the plot of the first book, `Grave Sight', in three volumes. To be honest, `Grave Sight' is perhaps not the best `Harper Connelly' novel to visually adapt. That first novel is a lot about the nuances and whisperings of the small town of Sarne, Arkansas. In the novel, Harper and Tolliver spend the majority of their time wheeling and dealing with the town folk who hired them to find a missing girl . . . meanwhile, having talks with a few locals who have a few things to say about the missing teen. So in this graphic novel there's lots of speech boxes and little action.
Regardless, I'm quite impressed with William Harms's screenwriting of Charlaine Harris's work. There's lots of back-story about Harper to condense - both about the lightning strike that changed her, and Cameron's disappearance. Harms uses very poignant storytelling, coupled with some sublime images from Denis Medri, to communicate a lot of story in very few panels.
I was also impressed at the way Medri visualized Harper's `sight'. In the novel, Harris writes a visceral experience of the visions that plague Harper when she approaches a dead body . . . Medri has done well to make these visions equally chilling, represented in distinctive blood-red panelling with a mesh-effect to disorientate and frighten.
This first instalment of the `Grave Sight' graphic novel is slow-going, but only because of the back story that must be told in order to understand the complicated Harper Connelly. It's dragged down by a lot of conversation and nuanced double-dealings. But both Medri and Harms shine in the scenes of more action, and eerie flashback. There is promise for a graphic Harper yet. I know that the books get darker, and Harper comes up against some formidable foes - I look forward to these future instalments, because I also know that Harper is an impressive leading lady in her own right.
Written by: Charlaine Harris & William Harms
Art by: Denis Medri
Colors by: Paolo Francescutto
Letters by: Bill Tortolini
Cover A by: Benoit Springer
Cover B by: Denis Medri
Contributing editor: Rich Young
Consultation: Ernst Dabel & Les Dabel