Watership Down: The Graphic Novel

Ten Speed. Oct. 2023. 384p. Tr $35.00. ISBN 9781984857194.
Gr 6 Up–Watership Down first entered the popular imagination as Richard Adams’s dense adventure novel about a group of rabbits establishing a new warren, deftly combining societal critique, rousing battle stories, religious myth-making, and rudimentary leporine linguistics. Illustrated adaptations to date have included an impressionistic, eerie 1970s film and a dry, naturalistic miniseries in 2018. In this, its first iteration as a luscious graphic novel, Sturm and Sutphin seem intent on almost documentary adherence to the original. Mystic rabbit Fiver has a terrible vision of his warren’s destruction, and along with brave Hazel and a few others, leaves in search of safer climes. They briefly join a group of rabbits who are drugged in their den and easily harvested by humans, cleverly procure does from a farm, and find themselves in brutal battle with General Woundwort, the authoritarian leader of a militaristic warren. Sturm’s and Sutphin’s work revels in the natural world: woods, fields, rivers and underground habitats flowing into one intoxicating, verdant dream. However, in its heavy emphasis on the original’s complex plot, the characters’ identities and relationships begin to blur and the story’s conclusion feels somewhat predetermined rather than hard-won. In an effort to be completely faithful to the original, this beautiful adaptation never quite finds its own voice.
VERDICT Beautiful and deliberate, this graphic adaptation retells the original story with impressive, exhaustive faithfulness.

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