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Review: Witch & Wizard

Sometimes, I feel like my students are slow to catch onto fads. The Witch & Wizard series by James Patterson has been around for some time in novel form, but it’s only this year that the series has become hot—something everyone wants to check out. So the addition of two graphic novel series to this franchise will only excite already devoted readers.

Witch & Wizard: The Manga V. 1
by James Patterson adapted by Gabrielle Charbonnet
Art by Svetlana Chmakova
Yen Publishing, September 2011, ISBN 9780316119894
256 pp. $12.99

Witch & Wizard: Battle for Shadowland
by James Patterson & Dara Naraghi
Art by Victor Santos
IDW Publishing, October 2010, ISBN 9781600107597
104pp. $17.99

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

The manga version is a straight adaptation of the novel. As I didn’t have patience to actually read the first novel, I can’t tell you how accurate the adaptation is, but this was a great intro to the series. (And hey, I might actually go back and read the books now!) I also felt immersed in the story, and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. The adaptation stood alone.

In short: A dictatorship has taken over the United States. (It doesn’t explicitly say it’s the United States, but it’s a safe bet.) Whit and Wisty, brother and sister, are rudely awakened by the police and arrested. They don’t know for what. Their parents are arrested too, but they later learn that they have escaped. As Whit and Wisty are put on a trial—a sham of a trial—they are hastily convicted of possessing magical powers. This is news to them, but slowly, the two come into the realization that they do have magical powers, and they are determined to learn how to use them as well as figure out how to escape.

I was delighted to see that Svetlana Chmakova was illustrating, because she is one of my favorite OEL manga artists.  Her style is crisp and fresh. The artwork is as telling and exciting as the text—in fact, for my reading experience this time, I was more taken by the artwork than the text. The opening pages are in color, which lends to the thrill of the read, as Wisty tells how she, her brother, and parents came to where they are, in a coliseum about to be hung.  I look forward to volume 2… I probably should go read the novels so I can just find out what happens. That’s what I’d tell my students to do.

In Battle for the Shadowland, IDW wrote a story set between the first novel, Witch and Wizard and the second book in the series, The Gift. Whit and Wisty have now come into their powers and have escaped the evil clutches of “The One Who Is the One.” They have joined a group of other teenagers who are fighting this evil dictatorship. With their magical abilities, they discover, that “The One Who is the One” is planning to conquer the Shadowland, an in-between place where ghosts live. It’s also the main means of travel between Freeland and The City—the city rebuilt in the “ideal image” of “The One Who Is the One.”

I originally picked up this title eons ago, but I had a difficult time reading it. I was onlysuccessful in getting through the story after reading the manga adaptation by Yen Press, which leads me to believe it was hard to get into because I didn’t know enough about the story. Yet I’ll be the first to say that there is plenty of backstory for a reader unfamiliar with the story. Theoretically, you should not need to know the other story to understand this one.

The artwork is in full color, but if you’re trying to compare the artwork of the manga to this title, you’ll only be able to find differences. The people are drawn in an interesting mix of manga and traditional superhero style, giving them an awkward, sometimes even flat, appearance. The action scenes are drawn well, adding a lot of excitement to this fast-paced story. Still, anyone picking this up will do so for the story not the artwork.

All in all, James Patterson fans (certainly the young ones) will enjoy reading both these comics, especially if they’re already Witch & Wizard fans.

Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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