I just finished reading my first graphic novel today: Blankets by Craig Thompson. My first impression of the book just after I closed it was that it was mediocre. However, I did enjoy the graphic format of the novel. The drawings were well done, and they helped add a depth to the novel that might not have gotten through to the reader otherwise. The graphic novel certainly allowed the writer to experiment with form and tell the story in a completely different way. Frames that featured nothing but snow and trees, or contained nothing at all, captured the lonely feeing of adolescence perfectly. But, no matter how skillfully the artwork was done, it couldn’t make up for the poor dialog and weak plot. Without the drawings, the novel would have never made it through publication.
This leaves me not knowing what to think about the rapidly growing genre of the graphic novel. Part of me feels that instead of using words to paint a picture in the reader’s imagination, these writers are simply drawing comic strips along with their story to make up for the weak writing. On the other hand, if I look at these books from a more artistic perspective, I look at the juxtaposition of the pictures and frames and admire the effect they create for the reader. In the end, I think that a good graphic novel should have it all: an excellent plot, effective dialog, and great artwork. Because the graphic novel is a hybrid, their authors have to impress both art and literary critics. This may leave them at a disadvantage, but as the genre develops and matures, I think it could make for some very interesting works.