First published back in August of 1992, the Eclipse Graphic Novel’s adaptation of Clive Barker’s short story ‘Revelations’ from the author’s ‘Book Of Blood: Volume Four’ (1985) followed in the footsteps of the successful ‘Tapping The Vein’ (1989 - 1992) adaptations.  The 1993 re-printing of ‘Revelations’, of the graphic novel also included the comic version of ‘Babel’s Children’ that was adapted from the short from ‘Books Of Blood: Volume Five’ (1985).  I have therefore included this additional comic adaptation in the review.

Revelations – 56 Pages
On their way across America, the renowned preacher John Gyer together with his wife Virginia and his assistant Earl, take a much needed break from the heavy-weather and pull into the Cottonwood Motel not far outside of their next destination of Pampa.  The very same lifeless Texas motel which thirty-years ago Sadie Durning shot dead her cheating husband Buck.  Four months later the unrepentant Sadie Durning had the electric chair for her crimes.  But the restless ghosts of the deceased couple have returned that very night to see where it all went wrong.  To see if somehow it could all have been different.  But, whilst the rain hammers down outside, in the adjoining room to the returned ghosts of the Durning’s, Virginia is feeling that she’s finally had enough of her uncaring and utterly overbearing husband.  And Earl is becoming somewhat distracted by the owner’s daughter Laura May.  Drama and bloodshed is about to play out in the Cottonwood Motel once again…

Barker clearly had a satirical grin on his face when he put together this strange marriage of Jerry Springer style drama with a morbidly supernatural spin, which  ultimately results in an unavoidable decent into bloodshed.  The smugness of the obsessive preacher on his crusade to spread his apocalyptical word is delightfully cut down and destroyed by Barker.  Indeed, Barker toys with the concepts of justice and resentment for the main part of tale, pulling together an intricate short story where comeuppance and revenge go hand-in-hand with violence and the perversity of the afterlife.  It’s a fabulous read, with plenty going on, and emotions running high from start to finish.

Steve Niles’s adaptation of Barker’s short is another one of those stories that seems to somehow fit quite naturally into the frame-by-frame structure of a graphic novel.  Lionel Talaro’s watercolour illustrations are in almost perfect keeping with the dreary atmosphere (and weather) of the short.  Indeed, so much of the graphic novel adaptation seems to work so well.  The characters themselves have come across from the original tale well; the escalating tension is reflected perfectly in Niles’ re-wording, and the progression of the tale is kept to a steady pace.  Everything seems to do the original short absolute justice.  Certainly one of the better adaptations of Barker’s ‘Books Of Blood’ series.

Babel’s Children – 34 Pages
Forty-one year old Vanessa Jape had always found herself being drawn to unknown destinations.  Places of mystery, where no signs announce their existence.  And that is why she found herself driving along an unmarked road to god-alone-knows-where on the island of Kithnos.  A road that, she ends up abandoning on foot, becoming lost until she happens across an incredibly secluded and out-of-the-way stone-walled compound.  Somewhere she hopes to seek some assistance in getting back to her car and hopefully her hotel.  But, on the quiet alleyways within the silent stone setting, Vanessa can feel the eyes of many on her.  And then, from out of nowhere, the strange monks advance with their guns drawn.  Unaware what she has stumbled across, she is locked up nevertheless, whilst the man in charge checks out her vague story.  But, that night, whilst resting in her cell, she has a strange visitor.  A sun-baked and aged old man who whispers through the cells bars.  He is one of a number of withered residents of the compound who are all captives here.  One of many who have an unbelievable story to tell.  A story and the responsibility to run the world…

The unusual location for the short at first seems like it will play along similar ‘out-and-back’ lines as a few of the other tales in the series.  However, this is far from the case.  The tale turns out to be of a very different nature to much of the ‘Books Of Blood’ series, with barely any element of horror finding its way in the storyline, but instead, toys with an air of mystery mixed with ideas of insanity and a farcical use of misguided power.  The short is compelling in its mystery, with so much kept from our protagonist (and therefore the reader) until a fairly good way into the story.  The general atmosphere and delivery of the short feels more like something Algernon Blackwood or indeed Ambrose Bierce would have conjured up.  It is certainly a lot slower-paced than the majority of other shorts in the ‘Books Of Blood’ collections.  But is nevertheless a compelling and intriguing read, based around a delightfully farcical idea, which ultimately produces the loose horror element to finish off the tale with.

Adapting the short into a comic format was always going to be a tricky task to pull off well.  There’s a lot that takes place in the build-up to the great revelations that form the story’s finale.  A lot of small but individually important stepping-stones that take the reader through the motions.  It’s slow-paced and quite plodding, but necessary to keep in check with the original tale.  And so, somewhat unsparingly, the graphic novel adaptation feels particularly condensed throughout its length.  With each frame cramming in the next small stage in the storyline and each page squeezing together as many frames as possible whilst still keeping a rough artistic air.  The end result isn’t altogether disappointing, but not the most compelling and gripping of reads.  But then again, Barker’s original short was more of a slow-burner, and one that doesn’t instantly fit an illustrated bill well.  Still well worth a read though.  And Hector Gomez’s illustrations do remarkably well in fitting in with the story.

The original release, with just the one story ran for a total of 56 pages, whereas the two-story rerelease of the graphic novel runs for a total of 90 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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