Heart of Darkness HC
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Price: $21.95
Creator(s): Joseph Conrad (writer); Peter Kuper (adaptor and illustrator)
Format: 160 pgs., B&W, 6.5"x9.5", Hardcover
ISBN: 978-0-3936-3564-5
Age Rating: N/A
ICv2 Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5

This was not the first graphic adaptation of Conrad’s classic work, but Kuper’s artwork makes this one very striking.  His previous adaptations of Kafka and Upton Sinclair certainly gave him a running start on adapting this difficult tale.  The only real difficulty is that Kuper’s dark, grim style helps make Conrad’s relentlessly grim story even grimmer.  That, combined with the racist attitudes of many of the characters in the story, makes for a difficult reading experience.  Still, being based on a novella rather than a longer novel, the adaptation is much more faithful to the original than many graphic adaptations can be.

For those who do not recognize his graphic novel work, Peter Kuper has been the artist who continued the work of Prohias in Mad Magazine on the "Spy vs. Spy" comics.  While much lighter in tone, the somewhat dark humor of that ongoing series shows that Kuper isn’t only dark and grim.  He can be dark, grim and funny.

Here, though, his artwork highlights the dark aspects of the story.  In addition, his artwork can be an acquired taste, as he exaggerates features and settings in some cases.  The result is an admirable project, one that might be better than note-taking for students who have read Heart of Darkness without understanding it. It is targeted at adults and older teens, and also at fans of Peter Kuper’s work.

--Nick Smith: Library Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.