Animorphs was a children's science fiction book series published by Scholastic and written by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant under the pen name K.A. Applegate. The series was published between 1996 and 2001 and spanned 54 books and 10 companion books. The books were told in first-person and revolved around a group of teenagers who are gifted the power to morph into animals from a dying alien and are recruited into a war to help fight off a secret alien invasion of Earth by a parasitic race of aliens called the Yeerks.
Animorphs featured six main characters (Jake, Marco, Cassie, Rachel, Tobias and an alien called Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill or "Ax" for short) who each took a turn at narrating each of the books. The books explored topics like the horror of war, the impact of violence, the body horror involved in morphing, childhood innocence, the difficulties of being a leader, mortality, sanity, freedom, friendship, family, and growing up.
Animorphs the Graphic Novel was adapted by Eisner-Award nominee comic book writer and artist Chris Grine. It is an adaptation of the first book in the series, The Invasion. It is 240 pages long with full-colour illustrations and was published by Scholastic on 6 October 2020. This review will contain spoilers.
I grew up reading Animorphs. A couple of years ago, I re-discovered the series as an adult and fell in love with the series all over again. When I heard that it was being adapted into a graphic novel, I was so excited. I knew that the series could work really well as a graphic novel if it was done right.
There was so much that I loved about this book. I really liked the look of the main characters. In the first book, the Animorphs are just twelve years old when they are made into child soldiers, and Grine does a really good job at illustrating their innocence, naivety, heartbreak and horror. I also thought that Grine was really faithful with how he illustrated a lot of the aliens in the book. I teared up a little when Elfangor-Sirinial-Shamtul, the Andalite who gives the Animorphs the power to morph, was revealed for the first time and gave the kids the blue morphing cube. And I got so excited when Alloran-Semitur-Corrass, the host of the Yeerk Visser 3, arrived in his Blade Ship and confronted Elfangor.
Grine made some really interesting choices in this book. In the original series, when the Animorphs are in morph, they can communicate telepathically with each other. In the graphic novel, when they communicate to each other telepathically in morph, the text is written in coloured speech bubbles with a different coloured speech bubble being used to represent each character. I liked this touch. It was different and worked really well. I really liked that Visser 3 had blood red speech bubbles. It was a perfect fit for his character.
I thought the morphing scenes were done really well. In the original book series, the morphing was always described as being horrific to watch, with bones cracking and skin melting. I always pictured the morphing to be a little bit flowing, even beautiful, with bones curving inward and feathers rippling like a tattoo over skin. In the graphic novel, Grine really dials up the body horror when it comes to the morphing. We see skin bubble and melt and bones crack and reshape. It was really well done.
My biggest criticism about the graphic novel is the lack of first-person narration in it. The Animorph books each open with a character stating "My name is…" and then doing a recap of the plot and the Yeerk invasion. The graphic novel opens in a similar way, but after a couple of pages ditches the first-person narration, and switches to a more traditional comic-book style narration with information being delivered via dialogue.
The problem with this style change is that I felt a lot of additional information about Jake and the rest of the Animorphs was left out. For example, I don't think it was mentioned once that Jake is Rachel's cousin and there was nothing about Rachel and Cassie being best friends or Jake having a crush on Cassie. I can understand why Grine decided to switch narration styles. If he had stuck with first-person, there would have been a lot of speech bubbles to include on the pages. The creative change did work well enough. But I feel like it left a lot of story out that will just have to be included later. I would like to see a little bit more first-person narration included in the later books.
The Animorphs graphic novels are off to a great start. Chris Grine has been praised by fans of the series for having a lot of respect for the source material and for delivering a loyal, faithful and exciting new addition to Animorphs that was well worth the wait.