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Orson Scott Card's
Red Prophet #1 and 2

My personal rule of adaptations is always see the adaptation first, because they’re never as good as the original. Ever.

The Red Prophet book-to-comic adaptation, while no exception to my rule, is still pretty sweet, and doesn’t let the devoted reader down. I’m a longtime Orson Scott Card fan (ah, Ender’s Game, how I love thee) and I read the Alvin Maker series (Red Prophet is Book 2 - editor) a few months back. I was amazed by how little was lost in the transition. But first, the story:

Red Prophet takes place in a slightly alternate pioneer-era American history, where folk magic is real and a common part of life. When a ne’er-do-well whisky-runner, a corrupt governor and an idealistic soldier-lawyer converge at a pioneer outpost, you would think the combination would be dangerous enough, wouldn’t you?

Of course not! Card has to add in a powerful Indian who’s seriously upset about white settling and his drunken brother. Before the last page, the bootlegger’s been jailed, the governor’s been bribed, the drunk has stolen a keg of whisky and the other two are raring to start a war against each other.

Keep in mind that this was only Part One. Part Two gives us backstory on the drunken Indian, a one-eyed would-be shaman named Lolla-Wossiky. Explained mostly through his brother, the powerful brave Ta-Kumsaw, we see why Lolla-Wossiky drinks and why he can get away with it. Armed with his stolen liquor, Lolla-Wossiky heads north to find his spirit animal, instead running into a small town with a hypocrite preacher and a small boy who just might be what the wandering Indian is seeking.

The writer, Roland Bernard Brown (personally selected by Card) did an amazing job of capturing the feeling of the time: “men were men, and smelled like horses.” The dialogue and narration are so authentically written that you find yourself thinking in whatever accent the narrator uses. The different styles for each speaker work well, and add a certain personalized tone that you would expect to get lost in translation. Brown plays with the plot well, keeping enough of the subtlety and humor of the original to keep the adaptation engrossing.

Card also adds in the occasional cameo by historical figures– something I found particularly satisfying in the original, and that other history buffs will probably enjoy, too. (If you’re the type who tended to doze through those long lectures, don’t fret – you don’t need to know who Bill Harrison was, it just makes it more satisfying if you do.)

The art is classic – the style would fit as easily into Illustrated Classics as it would into an entire comic. Renato Arlem adds some grit to give Card’s world a certain rough-and-tumble dustiness while still keeping the lines clean. Though a little exaggerated and occasionally overpolished, Arlem does a pretty good job of keeping it real.

Bottom line: This comic should certainly draw in established Card fans, and turn newcomers toward the original book. Brown and Arlem made the novel-to-graphic novel jump with definite style, and they have definite potential to turn this series into a gem.


Laura Hunter

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