The classic novel about the explosion of racial hate in an Alabama town—seen through the eyes of a girl whose father defends a black man accused of rape—is reimagined through the graphic lens of illustrator Fred Fordham.
Perhaps because of this lingering relevance, it’s fitting that this graphic novel adaptation holds fast to its source material, providing an unwaveringly faithful visual representation. Fordham’s adaptation relies almost entirely on dialogue, a wise choice, considering Lee’s careful use of southern dialect. His naturalistic artwork, meanwhile, is beautifully understated—graphic and expressive when needed but ultimately delicate enough to never render the narrative overdramatic. This illustrative restraint is the perfect counterpoint to the weighty subjects at play and the exceedingly complex yet nuanced characters. Like Lee’s spare novel, Fordham’s graphic adaptation leaves us to ponder what is unsaid, what is unseen, what lies in the subtext. A moving new take on a familiar story.
In this new adaptation of Lee's classic, Fordham's use of a limited color palette creates a vintage feel to his artwork. And while the print is on the small size and on a few pages the panels feel crowded, using a standard size hardcover format makes the book easy to hold whether you're a child or an adult reading aloud to children—or for your own pleasure. Despite missing the longer passages of description and commentary found in the original—the bits that children tend to skip anyway—the heart of Lee's fictional 1933 Maycomb is faithfully recreated via the art and dialogue. In fact, this edition of To Kill a Mockingbird is maybe even a bit more heartbreaking than the original as the focus is more on the children with little distraction ... a worthy partner to the original, providing a clarion call for civility, equality, and justice for all.
Fordham’s character drawings have an appropriate vintage look, and he chooses the right moments to slow down or pan out. The nighttime panoramas of the mysterious Radley residence are lovely and moody, and Fordham’s sun-dappled days, blue-gray evenings, and sepia courtroom scenes are dampened only by an off-the-shelf generic font. More loving remake than revelation, Fordham’s adaptation may be scrutinized by Lee’s fans, but does sufficient justice to her portrait of injustice.