Robert Jordan’s New Spring
Title: New Spring: The Graphic Novel
Author: Original story by Robert Jordan, adapted by Chuck Dixon
Art: Mike Miller (issues 1-7), Harvey Tolibao, Joseph Cooper, Etienne St. Laurent (colors), Kieran Oates (colors)
Publisher: TOR Books
Volume: Single-volume complete TPB, $24.99
Vintage: January 2011 (hit stores this week)
This comic released between 2005 and 2010 is an adaptation of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time prequel New Spring. New Spring follows the Aes Sedai Moiraine Damodred before she became an Aes Sedai. It also introduces us to her close friend and Amyrlin Seat for the beginning of the WoT series, Siuan Sanche. And, most importantly, it details the meeting of Moiraine and her Warder Lan Mandragoran, and the beginning of their journey to find the Dragon Reborn. The story opens by detailing the Aiel War, when the Aiel spilled forth from their deserts like a torrent upon the land, driven by unseen forces. Two Accepted (women who are training to take the test to become Aes Sedai), Moiraine and Siuan, attend the current Amyrlin Seat Tamra and her Keeper (a sort of secretary) Gitara, when Gitara has a Foretelling, a vision of the future. This vision is so strong that it kills Gitara, but not before she prophecies the birth of the Dragon on the slopes of Dragonmount. The Dragon Reborn signals the doom of the world, for he is meant to be born when the Dark One awakens from his prison to rain his destruction upon the land. Only the Dragon Reborn has the ability to stop the Dark One, though no prophecies foretell whether or not he will succeed. Moiraine and Siuan are sworn to secrecy, but when the war ends, the Amyrlin sends out the Accepted to note any children born within the predicted time frame so they may receive a gift from the White Tower (home of the Aes Sedai), and only the two friends know the truth of the project. When several members of Moiraine’s family die all at once, the Sisters give her and Siuan the simpler task of copying poorly written lists of names into readable print, giving both women access to every name and location of each child. In secret they begin making their own list of names, so they can search for the Dragon Reborn on their own. Things in the Tower begin to change quickly. Tamra dies and a new Amyrlin takes over, running things with a iron grip. Moiraine is being pushed into taking the Sun Throne, empty after the death of her ruling uncles. Both she and Siuan pass the test to become Aes Sedai, but their plans are cut short as Moiraine is ordered to stay at the tower, and Siuan can’t escape the work the Sisters give her. Desperate and frustrated, Moiraine makes a run for it, and sets out on a dangerous journey alone.
Meanwhile, after fighting in the Aiel War, the last king of a broken kingdom Lan Mandragoran takes a few months respite before returning to his home in the Borderlands, lands bordering The Blight, where Shadowspawn thrive (think Minis Tirith). On his way back home, he runs int Moiraine, who requests the protection of him and his two guards, Bukama and Ryne. They travel together to Chachin, where Moiraine has been tracing a name off her list. They happily part once there, but Lan gets trapped by a woman from his past and ends up a guest of the palace, while Moiraine uses her family’s name to gain access to the palace so she can gain access to a child there. Moiraine finds some unexpected surprises, including a member of the Black Ajah, and Lan gets roped into her business once again. He may have wished to be rid of the hot-tempered woman, but their story has a long way to go yet. Their journey is just beginning.
From what I remember of the novel, which I read a few years ago, this seems to be a fairly faithful adaptation. At the very least, the important points are there, and the characters are portrayed as they should be. The adaptation was helped along by close consulting from Jordan himself, who provided many notes on character designs, speech, and art detail. Several of his emails regarding the comic’s progress can be found in the back of the book, along with an illustrated glossary of some of the more important terms and characters that appear in the comic. You can see for yourself where his notes were taken to heart and where they were ignored throughout the book. Most interesting are his notes on character designs, where he criticizes the original art on many of the female characters as being too revealing or too sexy. It’s remedied in the final print, but it’s amusing to me where the default goes, and that Jordan had to reign it in to suit his world. I have more respect for the late author now for basically telling the artist not to show so much damn cleavage all the time. That a pattern on fabric can be more seductive than the baring of flesh is not really a notion carried around by many artists today.
Don’t quote me on the artist per issue thing (far) above. All I know is that the art takes a drastic turn in issue #8, and is clearly done by another artist, and that Miller was the original series artist. The book fails to delineate who did which issues, and Wikipedia was no help. Comixology tells me that Joseph Cooper drew issue #8, at least. The colorist seemed to change at issue #7 (and possibly the artist; it’s difficult to tell with the way the coloring and inking changes). I remember some publishing problems and a hang up on the final issue’s publication, so a switch isn’t surprising. But it’s quite the jolt. I’m making a point of pointing this out, because while I felt the first six issues had stellar art, I wasn’t fond of the coloring in issue #7, and didn’t at all like the art in issue #8. Most of the issues have a mature look, but in issue #8, everyone looks like puffy children. It’s a real shame that it couldn’t be consistent the entire way for such a short series. The art for the majority of the book is beautifully drawn and inked, and contains fantastic attention to detail (with just a few odd exceptions). Jordan’s world is really brought to life quite well; the first time we see the great island city of Tar Valon, it’s as a beautiful spread of a massive, dense city, the White Tower prominent in its center, Dragonmount towering in the background. It’s difficult to portray an invisible power (specifically for people who can’t channel it) like the One Power that Aes Sedai use, but it was visualized very well with glowing auras and strands of colored light. The one thing I have a complaint about, and this complaint continues in the ongoing Wheel of Time series from Dynamite, is the Trollocs, who just look like normal men with grotesque masks rather than hideous creatures of shadow. I always imagined them more like urak-hai with bestial faces, but the design was approved by Jordan, so I just need to stop being so stubborn.
If you’re a Wheel of Time fan, this collection is a must, especially if you have been following the ongoing series. If you’re a fantasy fan, there’s no reason not to pick it up for itself. You certainly don’t have to embrace the current series because of it, but maybe it will whet your appetite for more of the setting and its characters.