Review by Frank Plowright
One problem with so many graphic novel adaptations of beloved fiction is that the original material has already imprinted so strongly any adaptation falls short of what the mind has already created. Another is that weighty novels require contraction to be shoehorned into a limited number of comic pages. Hampered by restrictions, it’s a rare graphic novel able to convey an entire book. This adaptation of The Hobbit, though, has legs, first appearing in 1989, and proving popular enough to deliver several re-packagings since. The latest accompanies Peter Jackson’s movie version of Tolkein’s fantasy quest, as hobbit Bilbo Baggins trades his closeted shire existence to accompany a wizard and dwarves in their attempt to recover stolen treasure.
Artist David Wenzel produced painted pages neatly avoiding a problem of many Hobbit illustrations depicting insufferably cute creations. His hobbits are small, but not deliberately given a charm coating. Wenzel’s dwarves are careworn, weather-beaten creatures, his Gandalf suitably noble, his Gollum suitably deranged, his Smaug suitably fearsome and his vistas beautiful. Only with the hairy feet of Bilbo Baggins does he lack the necessary touch.
With 133 pages to adapt the novel writer Chuck Dixon ought to have had some breathing space, but by the final third of the book he’s incorporating large chunks of captioned text and requires massive word balloons for the voluminous amount of dialogue, resulting in cramped illustrations. For this amount of text one might as well read the book. Fans of The Hobbit may enjoy a new view of an old friend, but for all the fine illustration this is another compromised adaptation.