cover image M: A Graphic Novel

M: A Graphic Novel

Jon J. Muth, . . Abrams, $24.95 (189pp) ISBN 978-0-8109-9522-2

Long before Criterion DVDs or the Independent Film Channel—which is to say, in 1990—painter Muth adapted Fritz Lang's classic serial killer tale M into a four-part comics miniseries. He hewed closely to Lang's original German script, employing a painterly, photorealistic style that evoked the grainy, tinted footage of early talkies. The result, more influential than popular in an era of rampant speculation and chromium covers, was undeniably gorgeous. Eighteen years later, after popular artists like Alex Ross have cited Muth as a major influence, Abrams has re-released M as a hardcover graphic novel, and the deluxe treatment only adds luster to the project. Lang's story—an unidentified serial killer stalks children in a small German city—is simple but compelling, allowing Muth's masterful technique to shine through. The watercolors are primarily sepia-toned, with occasional splashes of color for emphasis, giving the project a surreal, dreamlike quality that serves to heighten suspense. Muth's layouts are excellent, creating mise-en-scènes that evoke Lang without copying him, and his figures' “acting” (body language and facial expressions) also serves both story and mood. An informative afterword lets readers hear from Muth about technique and why he would even try to remake Lang: to see what he could learn. Readers will find it an impressive lesson. (Apr.)