I’m not sure if it’s a credit or detraction to Mr. Russell, the adaptor and illustrator of this graphic novel, that I came away from reading it thinking, “I need to read more Neil Gaiman.” I suppose it could be considered both, but to be honest, it mostly stemmed from the fact that I liked the novel better and was reminded from that feeling that I need to read more Gaiman.
It’s not that this graphic novel is bad. It follows the same story of a bored girl who is looking for someone to play with, something intriguing, and also, people to respect her enough to call her by her real name instead of what they think it is (Caroline). She finds a mysterious door in her family’s new house and then finds a key to the door and goes through it. There she finds the Other world, which is a mirror image of her house, family, and neighbors, but…off. Other Mother has black button eyes, long spindly fingers with razor sharp nails, and just wants to love and adore Coraline and give her lots of rich foods and play with her. At first, this seems mostly cool to Coraline, who’s been looking for this kind of attention, but she soon realizes that getting what you think you want isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But when she tries to go home, she can’t find her parents. Turns out, her Other Mother has stolen and hidden them. The rest of the story is spent with Coraline trying to free them and get her real parents, a black helper cat, and herself back home.
The illustrations are quite creepy of the Other Mother and the Other side, in general, but I found that the way Gaiman described things left me more unsettled than the actual illustrations. The initial charm and subsequent oddness and ultimate fear all kind of blended to me. Seeing how jarring the Other Mother looked right off the bat was something that I think was a little too much for me.
The one thing I did really like was the intricacies in Coraline’s facial expressions. I think Russell did a great job with bringing her to life throughout the book, which is a definite plus since she’s, y’know, the main character. I think my lack of appreciation for the illustrations may just come down to personal preference. But I came away with it wanting to read more Gaiman, and really, that’s never a bad thing.