And Then I Read: RED PROPHET Vol. 1

Red Prophet cover
©Orson Scott Card

I’ve been a fan of Card’s writing for a long time, and have read and enjoyed all the Alvin Maker books he’s written thus far, so I decided to buy and read this hardcover collecting the first six issues of the comic book version created by the Dabel Brothers, and published by Marvel.

Adapting a novel to comics is always a tightwire act, trying to balance the original text with the needs of comics to tell a story visually. This one succeeds for me in general, with a few caveats, largely because of the narrative voice of the author, preserved here in lots of captions. I actually felt sorry for letterer Bill Tortolini on pages like this:

Red Prophet page

Not only was there a ton of work for him, but the artist isn’t helping: he had no choice but to put that last caption right over the character’s mouth. Otherwise, the art is certainly acceptable, though the artists do better with humans than they do with animals. Where there is room for action, though, there’s plenty of it.

The story takes place in an alternate version of America in the early 1800s when settlers were expanding into what is now our midwest, and clashing with the Indian tribes there. The largest difference from our own world is that, in this one, a sort of natural magic is present in both the Indians and the white settlers that give each unusual powers, though with added dangers as well. It’s a complex story, with lots of characters, but Card makes it all work, and the adapter here, Roland Bernard Brown, has given us enough of the original text to provide the subtle insights into those characters.

This book is full of moral dilemmas, something which works well in a novel, but not as much in comics. What saves the story here is that the moral dilemmas are so interesting, adding greatly to the character development and drama, that I was willing to put up with pages of minimal action while the moral dilemmas were explored in many captions.

If you’re an Orson Scott Card fan, or a fan of American history, you’ll find it well worth a read. If you haven’t read the original novel, this can be a good starting place, I think. Actually, the first novel, and the next two sequels, were all terrific reads, though in later books Card seemed to have lost his way somewhat. By the way, there used to be an active online fan-site revolving around the Alvin Maker stories, don’t know if it’s still around.

Also included is a short story in another Card world, that of the “Ender’s Game” novels. Not very successful to me either story or artwise.

2 thoughts on “And Then I Read: RED PROPHET Vol. 1

  1. Bill Tortolini

    Todd,

    Thanks for feeling my pain on this! I really enjoyed working on this title, it was a big challenge. The narrative on this book was daunting to say the least! I worked with the editors to get some of the dialog and captions down, but there was little help from the artists, once the book shifted to Miguel Montengro, it got a lot easier to work with.

    I hope you check out volume two when it is released from Marvel, the story is great and the artwork improves as it goes along – as does the massive amounts of text!

    Thanks again!

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