Romeo and Juliet: The War – A Book Review

In this graphic novel, Stan Lee and Terry Douglas have taken Shakespeare’s classic tragedy and adapted into something futuristic, epic in scope, visually beautiful, but, when compared to the source material, ultimately unfulfilling.

First of all, the production value of this book is outstanding.  Measuring at about ten inches by thirteen inches, this oversized piece would look wonderful on someone’s coffee table.  The raised lettering on the cover and heavy, glossy paper makes it far more than just a comic book.  I won this book in a contest and when I pulled it out, the overall construction of the book made quite an impression.  Then I opened the thing and my jaw dropped!

I would like to commend Skan Srisuwan, the artist and art director of the book.  Srisuwan should feel quite proud.  The “look” of the book is one of the most visually appealing works I’ve seen in the industry.  His architecture is gorgeous and his characters are incredibly lifelike.  Because of the oversized pages, the scope of this book is epic and Srisuwan’s art is very much up to the task.  His aerial shots are breathtaking.  But, without a doubt, the greatest strength of this book is its coloring.  Fires, explosions, shadows, skin tones – all of it is top-notch and a wonder to behold.  I’ve long been a believer that coloring can make or break a graphic novel, no matter how good the artist, and the colors of Romeo and Juliet: The War absolutely make it a cut above the rest.

So again, if you wanted to set this book out on the coffee table as a conversation piece, your friends and family would drool over the quality and beauty of this book.

Unfortunately, it is not without its issues.  Before I begin, I suppose it’s important to note that I am a Shakespeare fan and, as it would happen, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is among my favorites from his work.  I’m not sure how much control Max Work had over his dialogue because of Stan Lee and Terry Douglas’ influence, but it is stiff and often forced.  The pacing also disappointed me.  I realize the production team did not have a full five acts to convince us of Romeo and Juliet’s passion, but this book moved at such a break-neck pace that their relationship did not seem convincing whatsoever, and their verbal explanation attempting to persuade us to believe in their love proved even more off-putting.

Finally, I would have liked Romeo and Juliet: The War to have remained more faithful to the original characterization of its players.  Many of the characters seemed to share only the name of their predecessors, none of the actual qualities.  Most saddening was the oversimplification of both Mercutio and Tybalt, two of the more complex characters from the source material.  The heart of the play came from its wonderfully flawed characters, but Romeo and Juliet: The War’s characters regressed into two-dimensional, stereotypical facsimiles and came off as little more than stereotypical video game caricatures.

Overall, Romeo and Juliet: The War is a beautiful book of exquisite production value with some of the most remarkable coloring I’ve ever seen.  While the story fails to compare to its world-renowned source material, it still entertains and serves the exceptional art it accompanies.

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