Images © George R.R. Martin.
I’ve been a fan of the writing of George R.R. Martin for decades, and have bought and read all the books in the “Game of Thrones” series of novels as they came out in hardcover. I have a lot of mental imagery invested in the series, and had not thus far been tempted to watch the TV series or read the comics version, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about both, and finally decided to give this collection of the first six issues a try.
The publisher is Bantam Books, also the publisher of the novels, and one thing that’s quite clear from the cover on is that Martin is running the show. I know it’s a decision driven by marketing, but I find it a little irritating that the adapter and artist’s names are so small at the bottom when they did the vast majority of the work here. That said, Martin does provide a fine introduction describing his actual involvement, and there’s a long section in the back written by the editor outlining exactly how the series is created, giving lots of well-deserved props to artist Tommy Patterson and adapter Daniel Abraham, as well as a few kudos to the colorist Ivan Nunes and letterer Marshall Dillon. Cover artists Alex Ross and Mike S. Miller are lightly mentioned. I found the editor’s “gosh, this is so different from editing novels” confessions kind of amusing, too.
It’s been a long time since I read the first novel, so I’m not sure how closely the comics are following it, but they do seem to be giving enough space to many of the important characters. Visually there are some issues with a story like this, in that many of the characters are from the same few families, and those family members tend to dress alike, especially the children. It takes a while to figure out who’s who among them on some pages, but as the story goes on, and the characters split into different storylines, that problem largely goes away, though there were still some places where a “setting and character” caption would have been helpful.
I won’t attempt to outline the story, which is famously complex, but in short, this is a fantasy with only a little magic and a large dose of grim reality. The land at the center of the story is one of many competing factions only loosely tied into a kingdom (in fact, it’s called the Seven Kingdoms), and lots of plotting is always afoot, violence and cruelty are commonplace, and no character is ever safe. The world it takes place in is decidedly not Earth, even a past Earth, as it goes through a seasonal cycle that covers decades. It’s been “summer” for the last few, allowing people to flourish, but now the days are shortening, the nights are colder, and winter is coming. It will be a winter to test and try everyone, especially those in power. Standing at the north end of the land is a huge wall (sort of like the great wall of China, but made of ice) meant to keep horrors of the frozen north out, and manned by a dedicated brethren. This volume begins in that frozen country north of the wall, giving us just a taste of what is to come.
Then there’s the distant land on another continent where young Daenerys and her brother are plotting to ally themselves with a tribe of fierce warriors, hoping to return to the Seven Kingdoms someday at the head of an army. Daenerys has what might be the most unusual story arc of the saga. It involves dragons, and it begins here.
The art by Tommy Patterson is well done. One small complaint is that everyone is clean, beautiful and fashionably dressed throughout, while in the books the feel is much more gritty and hands-in-the-dirt, but in general it works well, and by the end of the volume I was completely involved in the world of the story. There were a few glaring errors in the lettering that were missed, and it’s a bit strange seeing Dave Gibbons’ font being used throughout, but the lettering and coloring were mostly at a high level of professionalism.