Dark Tales - Graphic Novels

FTC disclosure: I received free copies of two of the four books mentioned below in exchange for a fair and honest review.


Canterbury Press has released a new line of graphic novels in paperback called Dark Tales. The four volumes now available include The Hound of the Baskervilles, Beauty and the Beast, The Snow Queen, and The Call of Cthulhu. You can find my reviews for the last two titles below, and more about the ones I didn't read at the end of the post.

Dark Tales: The Snow Queen
By Hans Christian Andersen
Illustrated by Emilie Majarian

About this book: 
Seven vignettes in a graphic novel format make up Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen, which depicts the struggle between good and evil. More than 100 pages of illustrated action and adventure await! A demon creates a magic mirror that re ects negative thoughts. His minions break it, and shards of the mirror get into the hearts and eyes of citizens all over the land. Gerda’s friend Kay is affected, and is lured away by the Snow Queen to become her palace slave. Follow Gerda’s adventures in her quest to rescue her friend and restore his compassion!

Dark Tales: The Call of Cthulhu
By H.P. Lovecraft
Illustrated by Dave Shephard
About this book: 
H. P. Lovecraft’s story of supernatural monsters deep in the Pacific, told in graphic novel format, will keep you on the edge of your seat. More than 100 pages of illustrated horror and adventure await! Henry Wilcox can’t ignore his dreams of an enormous green monster calling to him from an underwater alien city. He seeks the help of Professor Angell, who dies suddenly, leaving a box of research on the subject for his nephew, Francis. Francis seeks answers about his uncle’s death, and in the process uncovers evidence of a cult waiting for the Great Old Ones to return.
Alethea's review:

Illustrator Emilie Majarian's retelling of The Snow Queen in this Dark Tales graphic novel hits all the right spots: the main characters' warm homes where they live with their grandmothers, the vast world beyond their idyllic little village, and the dreamy, barren landscape of snow where the Snow Queen resides. Her drawings of dark forests and red dirndls evoke nostalgia and place the tale in a vaguely Bavarian setting. The story follows Gerda as she searches for her missing childhood friend, Kay. The creep factor of the original story is enhanced by Majarian's vision of demons showering cursed mirror glass into the world below, the perils that Gerda encounters along the way, and the cold, owl-like eyes of the Snow Queen that Kay can only see as the most beautiful princess, although the reader perceives her as a gaunt, frozen hag.

Young readers should note that the storyteller takes liberties with the tale (changes in characterization and portrayal are mentioned in the Introduction), and would do well to then look up other variations of the story to compare them with this one. Aside from Kay being kidnapped by the Snow Queen, Gerda is lured and kept by a woman who uses magic to make her forget her purpose and past; she is set upon by blood-thirsty bandits as she travels alone. Although the world is dark, goodness shines through in the grandmothers, in the kindness of strangers, in the friendship of those first perceived as foes, and in the bravery of Gerda as she presses on in her quest. This would be a fine example to discuss personal safety with a middle schooler, though some elements may be too violent or scary to share with an elementary school child without parental guidance.

Dave Shephard also notes the changes made to adapt the classic horror tale, "The Call of Cthulhu",  for a graphic novel format. The modifications to the order in which events are presented, as well as the change to the ending, behoove the young reader to seek out and read the source material as well. The graphic novel interpretation may help facilitate understanding of the original short story, which was published almost a century ago. Whether or not it does the original any justice is hard for me to say, as I haven't read the story in over 20 years.

Taken by itself, the retelling is quite readable--rearranging and condensing the timeline while highlighting themes and plot parallels between the characters. Shephard's character drawings evoke old adventure comics. The most iconic lines from the book are quoted in frames that are almost cinematic. The most shocking scenes, rather than being the emergence of the great beast from underwater, were these: a woman falling to her death and a man smoking a cigarette. (Note: these didn't bother me personally, but I can't help but occasionally read things from the perspective of an overprotective parent.) That said, there is nothing too gory or graphic considering how sinister the content is: madness, cultism, mayhem, and death. As creepy as Cthulhu looks on the page, I was more creeped out by the Snow Queen's glowing owl eyes.

I found these Dark Tales to be thoughtful graphic novel retellings, great for young readers of scary stories around middle school and up. The illustrations, though probably not up to the standards of the adult comic aficionado, are well done and effectively evoke the somber, sometimes dismal worlds inhabited by these stories. They may additionally be used to urge the reader to investigate other versions and originals of these classic stories.

The Snow Queen's Read Now Sleep Later rating - 4 stars - Stay Up Late

The Call of Cthulhu's Read Now Sleep Later rating - 3 stars - Stick to Your Bedtime


Dark Tales: Beauty and the Beast
By Jeanne-Marie LePrince
Illustrated by Pete Katz
About this book:
This modern retelling of the classic fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast is told here in a graphic novel format. More than 100 pages of illustrated action, adventure, and love teach a lesson to look beyond the surface and learn to love what’s underneath. A merchant takes shelter in a castle during a thunderstorm, and ends up striking a bargain with its beastly master. His youngest daughter, Beauty, returns to the castle to live in exchange for a restoration of the family’s previous wealth. Beauty befriends Beast, but longs to see her family again. He allows her to visit her former home, but when she doesn’t return at the designated time, consequences ensue.

Dark Tales: The Hound of the Baskervilles
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Illustrated by Dave Shephard
About this book: 
This classic “whodunit” story with the famous Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson is now told in graphic novel format. More than 100 pages of illustrated action and adventure! Sir Charles Baskerville, master of the Baskerville estate, is found dead at the gates with a look of horror on his face. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are called in to investigate the possibility of foul play. After several false leads, they solve the mystery and reveal the truth.

You can find out more about the Dark Tales series at http://canterburyclassicsbooks.com/2018/02/19/dark-tales-series/


The descriptions marked "About this book" were provided by the publisher.

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