While perusing my local comic shop this week, I was excited to find that Dark Horse Comics decided to release a comic book rendition of two of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories. What made it even better is that the influential illustrator Richard Corben got the opportunity to draw it. For those unlucky few who are unfamiliar with the work of Poe, you really should educate yourselves as soon as possible. Poe’s imagination and creativity allow him to construct scenarios and scenes years ahead of his time. Usually they include death or the occult, typically both. You can still see Poe’s influence on storytelling in today’s world.
There are two short stories included in this one-off publication. The first is Morella, a short story written by Poe and published around April 1845. I was unfamiliar with this story prior to my start, but after enjoying the way Corben illustrates this tragic love tale, I found Poe’s original and read it for comparison. As per usual when converting a story across mediums, the comic and the written text aren’t exactly the same. For one, the language is modernized. Some traditionalists would scoff at this idea, but for a dude like me, who wants to understand the point without re-reading a sentence 17 times, it works. So, although it isn’t completely the same as the short story, it still follows the same tale. Death, witchcraft, borderline incest, suicide… what’s not to like? Corben manages to depict the story in only ten pages of illustrations, and still leaves the reader with as much dread as Poe did when he penned the original.
The other story, I’m more familiar with, having read it in High School. The Murders in the Rue Morgue is widely regarded as the first detective story. The readers are introduced to a pair of men named Dupin and Beluc, two sophisticated men reading the morning paper. Dupin sees an article about a mysterious murder and claims to have already solved the case. Dupin’s tactics, delivery, and overall persona are clearly some of the main inspiration behind Sherlock Holmes. Dupin, using barely more than simple logic and deduction is able to solve this gruesome murder, uncover a missing corpse, and even apprehend the main suspect without breaking a sweat. Again, the story isn’t identical to the one that Poe published in 1841, but the way in which Corben decided to tell the tale still carries all the suspense and aggression as the original. Who wouldn’t want to see a bloodthirsty orangutan wielding a straight edge razor?
I thoroughly enjoyed Corben’s take on these two great stories. The illustrations are heavy on the ink, creating a dark undertone to every panel. The colors, like the stories, are mostly muted and dreary, and feature the occasional contrast of a bright color to draw the reader’s attention. My favorite part of the book is when Corben’s murderous beast finally take its revenge.
I wouldn’t be surprised if more classic short stories would benefit from a modern take. To me, they’re not meant to replace the originals, merely to support why the originals were so good in the first place.