24 September 2012

Review: Barry Gifford's Peridta Durango by Bob Callahan

Comic trade paperback, 112 pages
Published 1995
Borrowed from the library
Read September 2012
Barry Gifford's Perdita Durango

Script Adaptation: Bob Callahan
Art: Scott Gillis

There's hardly a review of the absolutely stunning graphic adaptation Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli did of Paul Auster's City of Glass that doesn't mention that it was originally commissioned as part of the "Neon Lit" series of graphic novels, which was intended to adapt contemporary crime/mystery fiction into graphic format. Upon a recent rereading of City of Glass, it occurred to me that I'd never even heard the title of another work in that series, so I went and looked it up.

Well, there was only one other, and it's this. Perdita Durango was originally a novel by Barry Gifford, second of his Sailor & Lula series; Bob Callahan scripted a comics adaptation of it that was drawn by Scott Gillis. Perdita Durango isn't terrible in any way, shape, or form, but coming on the heels of City of Glass, it's not remotely in the same league. The story doesn't do anything near as interesting with word/image interplay, it's simply a somewhat over-narrated tale of journey across America by two criminals. I don't know how long the original piece was, but this feels overly compressed; they've crossed America before they've even left.

Perdita Durango is dark, twisted, and occasionally funny, but perhaps its failing-- the thing that stopped me from ever really engaging with it-- is that you finish it without understanding Perdita. And not in a oh-isn't-she-such-an-enigma way, but in a we-have-nothing-interesting-to-go-on-not-even-an-interesting-lack-of-knowledge way. I have only the barest hint of who she is and what she does. Good prose-to-comics adaptations are capable of much; unfortunately, Perdita Durango does not achieve it.

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