Saturday, October 31, 2015

Reader's Diary #1208- Darren Shaw (writer), Takahiro Arai (art): Cirque du Freak, Volume 1

Cirque-du-freak, cirque-du-freak, it's cirque-du-freaky, yow. (Sorry, that's been stuck in my head for the past few days and so I feel I must do my duty and pass it on.)

Actually, it's not that freaky. But freaky enough, I suppose, for some harmless entertainment.

Originally a novel series by Irish author Darren Shaw, the manga version comes as the result of a contest in which Takahiro Arai won the rights to draw the manga version. Apparently it was also a movie starring John C. Reilly in 2009 but I have no recollection of that.

Based on the first volume, I'd have to question if they weren't being a bit ambitious to think this story would need a movie. For a title that promises a circus full of freaks, it's not exactly as shocking or compelling as it might appear. The freaks are what you'd expect, for the most part. The catch is that one is a vampire.

Stephen, one of two boys who have snuck out to see the show, realizes that a particular spider-training freak, Larten Crepsly is a vampire, and desperate to become one himself, Stephen pleads with Crespsley who decides he's unworthy. The other boy, Darren, however (yes, the author named him after himself), is deemed worthy. Instead of a freak-show story, the story quickly becomes a generic vampire assistant story. Also unpredictably, this causes friction between the two boys. About the only fascinating and more unique thing so far is Darren's pre-occupation with spiders.

Likewise Arai's artwork, while interesting in the way that I find most manga interesting (i.e., how different it is than most North American comics), is no more ground-breaking than the plot.

All that aside, I haven't read a vampire story in ages and I was in the mood for it. Generic or not. Plus, I think there's potential, some seeds sown, that might allow the series to veer into more uncharted waters later on. Sowing seeds, uncharted waters. Yes, I'm in a mixing my metaphors sort of mood today. Freaky.


Nikki in Niagara said...

Glad to hear it satisfied you. I haven't read the manga yet myself but loved the novels. My son has the manga and really enjoyed it.

Do not watch the movie it's horrible; especially if you plan on reading any more books as it spoils one of the reveals at the end of the series! And it's only supposed to be based on books 1-3.

Cirque du Freak is actually the American name for the series; it was originally called "The Saga of Darren Shan" in the UK and by Harper Collins Canada.

This series has a special place in my heart though as the first novel was the very first book my youngest son ever read without pictures in Grade 7! (He's autistic) I tweeted about it and Darren Shan wrote us back. It was quite nice and makes you appreciate the smallness of the world now that we have the internet. I remember as a kid always wanting to write to my favourite authors and never actually doing it.

Sam said...

My grandson, an avowed non-reader mostly because of his dyslexia problem, was made aware of these by his sixth grade English teacher late last school year. He instantly fell in love with the series while she was reading the first few pages of book one aloud to the class and asked if I could help him find a copy of his own. Well, the rest is history. He is about half-way through the tenth book in the series now and I just received copies of the final two books in the mail. He is slowly turning into a reader despite it being a slow process for him when he is tired. We owe Darren Shaw all the credit for having the kind of imagination that little boys appreciate.

John Mutford said...

That's so interesting Nicola and Sam. To by eye, it was good but nothing special, but clearly to some it does have something above the rest. Thanks for sharing!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I'm happy to hear that spiders are finally getting some literary love. Long overdue.

John Mutford said...

Come on now, we'll always have Charlotte, Aragog, and Shelob!