cover image Slaughterhouse-Five, or the Children's Crusade: A Graphic Novel Adaptation

Slaughterhouse-Five, or the Children's Crusade: A Graphic Novel Adaptation

Kurt Vonnegut, Ryan North, and Albert Monteys. Archaia, $24.99 (192p) ISBN 978-1-68415-625-2

A rare graphic adaptation that enriches a literary classic, rather than serving as an illustrated crib sheet, this take on Vonnegut's harrowing sci-fi war novel radiates with the author's caustic humanity. North (How to Invent Everything) refuses to treat the original with kid gloves, jumping out with witty asides ("the two versions of the story are very similar, only ours has more pictures") and helpful addenda, such as timelines. This jittery meta-artistic approach suits the novel's fractured plot. Hapless soldier Billy Pilgrim becomes "unstuck in time" during the Battle of the Bulge. Zipping from childhood to the future, he witnesses Allied bombers' devastation of Dresden, where he was held as a POW; a mid-70s America broken into many smaller countries; and a long interlude in a zoo run by aliens who see all time simultaneously ("This moment simply is"). It's a lot to take in, but North refracts Vonnegut's sharp humor and Pilgrim's Candide-like journey to acceptance through his own philosophical wit. Spanish cartoonist Monteys brings it all to life by mixing dynamic visual sequences taut with gusting emotions with wider-format landscapes, orchestrated with the book's pinging metronomic repetition of "so it goes." This tragic, bleakly funny take on Vonnegut's defining work will send enthused readers back to the source, and deserves a place beside it on the shelf. Agent: Katie Cacouris, the Wylie Agency. (Sept.)