Review by Ian Keogh
Eoin Colfer’s eight volume series of a twelve year old criminal mastermind is hugely popular with good reason. Colfer’s tapped into the mindset of teenagers who appreciate a bit of grossness and villainy in their protagonists. Can the graphic novel match the source material?
The needs of a graphic novel require compression, so some plot elements fall by the wayside. This is sympathetic pruning with Colfer working alongside Andrew Donkin to ensure this is confined to minor elements, but some of those are character beats, with Juliet in particular being short changed. The important aspects remain, however, so this is the same plot of Artemis Fowl attempting to restore the prestige of his family’s criminal empire from their mansion in Ireland. His father is missing and his mother addled, but he has the devotion of family bodyguard Butler, a capable brute of a man.
Colfer mixes creatures from fairy tales into the story, with Fowl convinced that the way forward is via coercing fairies, beings who’re very much against being coerced. A delightful aspect of the novel (and this adaptation) is the glimpse into the working of their society, and the more eccentric cast members are all generated here. We have a rampaging troll, a criminal dwarf who was the book’s surprise hit (and frequently returns), an elf police officer, and her command structure. Donkin ensures their personalities survive the transition, and highlights the administrative incompetence of all but Fowl’s precise plans.
The problems begin with the art of Giovanni Rigano. As shown on multiple occasions, he can be a spectacular artist, and he brings some cast members to life, while his cartooning renders others irritatingly awkward. His design for Butler is plain off-putting, yet his Mulch Diggums is perfect. Such is the problem. He’s not helped by the colouring of Paolo Lamanna, whose primary technique is to slather the pages in varying shades of the same colour, and he’s very fond of green. This is the art team for the entire series of adaptations to date, so very much a like it or lump it situation.
As a fair amount of background information can’t be slipped into the story, Colfer and Donkin have the neat solution of separating the chapters with a text page, each topic referring to something or someone relevant from the previous chapter. They also bring through the multiple fine whimsical and creative moments that characterise the series. Diggums is the equivalent of a digging machine, and his compulsive thieving further defines his individuality, so that he digs with his mouth and excretes what he swallows is an excellently disgusting touch.
Is this as good as the original novel? No, but its a decent adaptation, and that’s often not the case. The next in the series is Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incident.