Friday, August 9, 2013

Draupadi: The Fire-Born Princess by Sarawati Nagpal, art by Manu

 Princess Draupadi rises from a sacred fire after her father's prayers.  She is to be married to her love, Arjuna, a Pandava prince.  But Draupadi's destiny surprises even her, as she finds she must marry Arjuna's four brothers as well.  Her husband's cousins, the Kauravas do everything in their power to hurt her family and bring down the Pandavas.  Draupadi discoveries her purpose is to bring about the end of the Kauravas.

I didn't love it.  I appreciated the telling of a myth that we don't often get to hear.  Greek myths get told over and over again in a variety of forms, but this is adapted from the Indian epic Mahabharata, a story many people have never heard of.  I really wanted to like it.

Draupadi herself is an interesting character.  She born full grown for the purpose of marriage, but her destiny is larger than that.  She deals with going from marrying the man she loves to having to marry his four brothers as well.  She is hotheaded and outspoken.  She demands revenge against those who have wronged her.  She grows as a person over the years and learns compassion.

Unfortunately, the storytelling and set up of the graphic novel did not do the story justice.  It just wasn't a very good graphic novel.  Rather than using the art to enhance the story, all the images did was reflect the text.  The art was flat pencil drawings.  Characters didn't look the same from panel to panel, making characters, especially the men, hard to follow.  Most problematic were the large blocks of text on each panel.  What is the point of a graphic novel when most of the text is still narrative?  You have the medium that allows people to see what's happening.  It seemed like we had a prose story that was cut up into small chunks and glued onto pictures.  It was essentially a long picture book, not a graphic novel.

So it was disappointing all around - the art, the text, the poor use of the medium.  It made reading it a slog and completely took away from what could have been a really interesting story.  I would have liked to have seen it in someone else's hands.

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