Yvain: The Knight of the Lion adapted by M. T. Anderson and Andrea Offermann



Goodreads: Yvain: The Knight of the Lion
Series: None
Source: City Book Review
Published: March 14, 2017

Official Summary

Eager for glory and heedless of others, Sir Yvain sets out from King Arthur’s court and defeats a local lord in battle, unknowingly intertwining his future with the lives of two compelling women: Lady Laudine, the beautiful widow of the fallen lord, and her sly maid Lunette. In a stunning visual interpretation of a 12th century epic poem by Chrétien de Troyes, readers are — at first glance — transported into a classic Arthurian romance complete with errant knights, plundering giants, and fire-breathing dragons. A closer look, however, reveals a world rich with unspoken emotion. Striking, evocative art by Andrea Offermann sheds light upon the inner lives of medieval women and the consequences Yvain’s oblivious actions have upon Laudine and Lunette. Renowned author M. T. Anderson embraces a new form with a sophisticated graphic novel that challenges Yvain’s role as hero, delves into the honesty and anguish of love, and asks just how fundamentally the true self can really change.


As a fan of medieval literature, I was excited to see Anderson adapt this story about one of King Arthur’s knights by Chrétien de Troyes for a new audience.  Although I enjoyed Anderson’s take in general, he does make changes to the plot and characters (presumably to streamline the story) that fundamentally change some of the themes explored in the original French medieval romance.  This, I think, does a disservice to Chrétien’s text, which is undoubtedly entertaining but is about so much more than epic battles and encounters with monsters.  Chrétien’s stories tend toward the complex and thought-provoking, and Anderson’s changes do away with some of this in order to present a slightly more digestible tale.

The story that Anderson and Offermann present is one of courage, love, and loyalty lost and regained. Yvain is not always heroic and the outcomes of the adventures are not always happy, but this is the point, and it paints a more complicated version of King Arthur’s times and his knights than readers get from other sources.  (Indeed, there are a lot of medieval texts that paint Arthur or his knights in a less than flattering light, which I think many modern readers are unaware of.) The female characters in particular in this story seem stuck between having power and being unable to wield it to get what they want.  It is a story that asks readers to question social and gender roles, as well as the definition of real power.

Offerman’s illustrations are gorgeous, if a bit lacking in color for my personal taste, and they are often the backbone of the story when Anderson chooses not to use words to explain plot events from his source material. Her art is detailed and based in extensive research, adding a wonderful layer of nuance to the book. This adaptation will make the most sense to readers who have read Chrétien’s version (and I do recommend reading that; Penguin publishes a very accessible translation), but it is a solid introduction to the medieval romance for those who have not read the original.

3 Stars Briana

Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood by Tony Lee

OutlawGoodreads: Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood
Source: Library

Official Summary:

Fast-paced graphic storytelling and stunning full-color illustrations combine in an action-packed retelling of the heroic Robin Hood story.

How did Robin of Loxley become Robin Hood? Why did he choose to fight injustice instead of robbing for his own gain? Expressive and gritty, this graphic novel whisks readers back to Crusades-era England, where the Sheriff of Nottingham rules with an iron fist, and in the haunted heart of Sherwood Forest, a defiant rogue — with the help of his men and the lovely Maid Marian — disguises himself to become an outlaw. Lively language and illustrations follow the legendary hero as he champions the poor and provokes a high-stakes vendetta in a gripping adventure sure to draw a new generation of readers.

ReviewOutlaw is a somewhat darker take on the Robin Hood tale, starring a Robin who is mature and somewhat bitter from his childhood experiences and his role in the Crusades.  He is, however, a complete badass, and will satisfy readers who like their legendary figures tough in battle, witty with their enemies, and suave with the ladies.  The plot offers few surprises, following standard escapades as Robin crosses paths with Guy of Gisburne and the Sheriff of Nottingham and woos the Lady Marian.  Its greatest claim to originality is its medium—the graphic novel.  Readers can see as Robin waylays travelers and breaks into the Sheriff’s home.

When the story does depart from more traditional Robin Hood elements to original ones, the plotlines seems out of place.  The book opens with Robin as a child, in an attempt to build something of a backstory for him.  If anyone ever wanted to know exactly how Robin became good with a bow, or when he first romanticized the idea of becoming an outlaw, the answers are here.   These moments are referenced frequently as Robin experiences flashbacks about them, and they are clearly meant to move the audience.  They also humanize Robin, and he becomes less than legend in this book.

The book further departs from tradition by introducing an element of the supernatural.  Sherwood, it seems, is haunted.  No one can find Robin’s band because they are too fearful to enter the woods and look.  Unfortunately, there is only a single encounter with spirits, near the beginning of the story, and then the matter is dropped.  The subsequent absence of what had promised to be a major component of the book and Robin’s life is noticeable and could leave readers dissatisfied.

In terms of artwork, the first panel is spectacularly immersive, featuring a hooded outlaw perched among the branches of a large tree, seemingly aiming his bow straight at the reader as he demands a toll before he or she can move on.  Unfortunately, this is the illustrator’s most brilliant moment, as the panels following never again incorporate the reader directly into the story or generally add much the text itself could not accomplish.  Most of the panels are dark, making it difficult sometimes to tell which characters are speaking or what is happening in general.  This can build an atmosphere of confusion for the reader that is fitting for a story based around conspiracies, but it also means that often there is not really much to look at.

Mostly, Outlaw stands on readers’ already formed love of the Robin Hood tale.  The artwork has some interesting features, when visible, but readers will probably not be poring over it.  The dialogue vacillates between being sassy and awkwardly phrased.  The plot is fun—but it is standard.  Barring the addition of Robin’s childhood years, most of it has been done before, in greater length and detail.  Outlaw could serve as a fun introduction to Robin Hood, to familiarize young readers with the general idea of the story, or it could be a fun read for those interested in comparing different Robin Hood versions.   In both cases, it needs to be read in comparison with other Robin Hood books because it is simply not remarkable enough to stand on its own.

Published: 2009

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