The Count of Monte Cristo has been one of my favorite classic stories for a long time. I knew of the story by Alexandre Dumas for a while, but my first introduction to it was through a movie adaptation from 2002. It’s one of my favorite versions and I have returned to it multiple times to watch over again. It took a while, but eventually I got through the very long version of the book itself and wound up loving the story even more. There is also the anime adaptation that I have to mention, Gankutsuou, which is absolutely fantastic in the way it tells the story in a new and modern way. Now, Manga Classics brings us a manga adaptation to add the list, something I was very excited to see when they gave me the option to review a couple of their titles. Reading Dumas’ novel is great, but it can definitely be a slog at times. However, reading it in comic form might be a way to eliminate the slog and add more interest as well as accessibility for those who may not have the ability, time, or attention span to get through a 800-1000 page novel. The writer for Manga Classics definitely had a tough time cutting the story down here, and in some ways it shows. However, I think this adaptation is still a great way to experience the story if you don’t have the time to read the full thing. If you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can find a coupon code for their store at the end of this review.
The story of The Count of Monte Cristo is one filled with betrayal and revenge. It’s a long and convoluted plot about getting back at the people who wronged you and taking back the life you lost through any means possible. Edmund Dantes was a simple sailor who was deeply in love with a young woman, but on the eve of his wedding he is falsely accused of treason and suspected in a plot to bring Napoleon back to France. He is sentenced to life in prison at one of the worst prisons in France, an island all its own off the coast. With the help of a fellow prisoner, he makes his escape and assumes a new identity to build the perfect plan to get back at the people who put him there in the first place.
Nokman Poon handled the art for this adaptation and I have to say it is very good. The line work is very clean and the characters are well designed. Over the course of the many pages and panels within this volume, Poon’s art didn’t falter, and I think really contributed to the overall feeling of the novel. The Count of Monte Cristo is a story full of darkness as Edmund is swallowed up by his quest for revenge and basically becomes another person. We see a lot of this feeling present through the art, values, and contrast used in the pages. It’s especially present in close-up shots of Edmund’s face as he is reveling in the success of his plans or gets lost in his anger. A shadow falls over his face and all his features, especially his eyes really stand out. I loved seeing these moments, and I love how the darker values create the much needed heavy atmosphere for the story.
Character designs for a retelling of a classic story is very important. We all have ideas of what certain characters should look like based on our own readings of the source material, and seeing something that doesn’t match can create a disconnect. Personally, I found the choices made in this retelling wound up matching my own ideas. Our main character, Monte Cristo, has his nice flowing black hair and shadowed eyes, leftovers from his time in prison. I think you really feel the heavy weight of his mission in his shadowed face. You also get a good sense of his massive wealth by the kinds of clothes he wears, something super important to the story. Danglers’ design with his skinny, almost rat-faced features allowed me to really feel the kind of treacherous person he was. Albert was also quite similar to what I had imagined. His character is similar to what Edmund was like pre-prison, and I think you really get the feel of his innocence and naivety through his soft, adolescent face. The only issue I had was some of the faces of the women throughout, as I found it hard at times to distinguish between mother and daughter through their character designs. All the women looked to be in their 20s, so some mothers and daughters would be indistinguishable by age.
One of the challenges of adapting a classic novel of this size is the lack of space to include everything. I think Crystal Chan did a pretty great job, and she included notes in the back about what she chose to leave out and why, but I do miss some of the details from the original. I always really loved the beginning of the story where Edmund was learning from the elderly man in prison and formulating his plan to escape and get revenge. It’s actually one of my favorite parts of the 2002 movie adaptation. When I started reading this one, I found the beginning to be a bit dry and slow to start, probably because of the amount of exposition needed to catch people up on what was happening in the parts that were skipped over. It’s a shame that this adaptation couldn’t have been made into multiple volumes. I feel that would be better for the story overall, giving the twisting and turning plot more room to breathe and the intricacies of Edmund’s plan more space to be explored. But, I know that is not always an option.
There are those of you out there that are not familiar with The Count of Monte Cristo, and I encourage you to check out one of my favorite tales of love, revenge, and retribution. I still love how Edmund transforms from an innocent and loyal man to one consumed by revenge, becoming a completely different person. I love seeing how his plans twist and turn, taking their time to come to fruition, pinpointing all the weak spots of the men who betrayed him. I also love seeing how he still has a weak spot for Mercedes after all these years, even after coming to discover she remarried and had a son with one of the men who betrayed him. It becomes one of the first cracks in his facade, seeing her again and then sparing her son’s life later. After all is said and done, and the men find their greed and betrayal thrown back in their faces, he winds up finding some modicum of happiness in helping his old mentor’s family find peace and finding new love of his own.
In the end, I can’t help but think this is a story of human nature. How even though plagued by the need for revenge, Edmund winds up finding happiness and peace in the end. Was Edmund a vehicle of fate for the men who wronged him and those who were loyal? Who knows, and who knows what would have happened if he had just run off with his fortune and found a new life for himself elsewhere. They’re actions may have come back to haunt them, but for the most part I think his actions were justified. However, I also think Dumas added in a cautionary element within this story to show readers that there are consequences for taking revenge too far, like the death of a young boy that could have been prevented.
The Count of Monte Cristo remains one of my favorite classics, and I encourage you to check it out for yourselves in any of the many adaptations out there or even in the original. Manga Classics and Udon Entertainment did a great job on this manga given the length and complexity of the story, and I would highly recommend checking it out for yourself. If you are interested, they have given me a special coupon code, SHOPBLOOM, to use for $5 off any $25 purchase on their store. Feel free to use it to pick up any of their many classic retellings.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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