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Review: Classics Illustrated #10: Cyrano de Bergerac

This comic adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s 1898 play about a long-nosed, sharp-tempered soldier/poet living in France in the 1640 was originally done in 1991 for First Comics. Papercutz has picked it up and offers it now in an affordable hardcover edition.

Classics Illustrated #10: Cyrano de Bergerac
by Edmond Rostand
adapted by Peter David and Kyle Baker
Ages: 14+; Grades 9+
Papercutz, 2010, ISBN: 9781597071970
56 pages, $9.99

I wanted to read this because I am a fan of Cyrano, a fan of Peter David, and a fan of Kyle Baker, all of which trump the fact that I usually do not like adaptation of classic works of literature. But since Cyrano is a play, I was hopeful that it would translate well into the comic form. It does, although obviously with a good deal of abridgment. That abridgment didn’t bother me as much as I thought it might, however. The main story shines through. We still get a strong sense of who Cyrano, Christian, Roxanne, and the other characters are and both the humor and the pathos of tale remain crisp and clear. The language is no longer in poetic form–Rostand wrote it in rhyming couplets of 12 syllables each–but the word panache is still used and is an important part of keeping to the spirit of the play, as Ken Wong points out in the afterword.

What keeps me from loving this is, unfortunately, Baker’s art. His loose, cartoonish style works great in the action or humor sequences. But Cyrano’s complaints about his ugly face seem odd when he’s surrounded by others who look equally hideous. Though the case could be made for that being Baker’s intention–to point out how silly Cyrano’s concerns about his appearance are–that doesn’t make up for the terrible colors. The palette of teal, yellow-orange, burgundy, pink, red, blue, and green is eye-ball scorching and dates the book painfully. There are moments of brilliance, though. When Cyrano first thinks that Roxanne might be confessing love to him, he does not react at all, but his shadow on the wall clearly shows what he is feeling inside.

Though this reworking of Rostand’s hilarious play is a strong adaptation in words and layout, the drawings and especially the colors will keep any but the most devout comic and/or Cyrano fans from picking this one up. Teachers should find this useful for classroom purposes, however, and the low price makes it easy to pick up a class set.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Papercutz.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.


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