Siegfried (Archaia)

Think opera is stuffy? You won’t in the hands of Alex Alice, who excites the senses with this adaptation of Richard Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung.

156 pages, full color, $24.95
(W / A: Alex Alice)

There’s something to be said for a story that engages more than one sense. For example, an average novel engages your mind directly, using descriptive words and phrases to stimulate your imagination. An opera, on the other hand, engages sight, sound, and imagination. However, while operas aren’t as commonplace as they once were, the stories they told have lost little of their oomph, and in some cases are just waiting for another medium to pick them up so they can take on new life. Never was this better exemplified than in Alex Alice’s graphic novel, Siegfried.
Siegfried is part one of a three part story based on Richard Wagner’s classic opera, The Ring of the Nibelung. It’s an intriguing story set in Norse mythology about Siegfried, a young orphaned demigod brought up by a dwarfish-goblin creature from the depths of the Norse underworld. Raised in ignorance of the gods and his heritage, Siegfried yearns to discover who his real parents are and live amongst his own kind. However, Odin, father of the Norse gods, already has a destiny planned for him: to fight and slay the dragon Fafnir, guardian of a mysterious ring of unfathomable power.
Siegfried is a story that combines the action and intrigue of a classic mythic journey with the psychological drama inherent in a lost child’s search for his origins. The further I read into the story, the clearer that it became that while Alice took much from the original opera, he went to great lengths to mold the story and create his own take on the tale. His vision of Siegfried’s world drew from numerous outside sources ranging from The Lord of the Rings to Ridley Scott’s Legend to even Jeff Smith’s infamous Bone series.
Alice’s diversity in influences can also be seen in his artwork, which is every bit as impressive as the story it accompanies. The style Alice uses is both distinct and sharply defined, and his character designs are as dynamic as they are inspired by fantasies from earlier days. The denizens from the Norse underworld are reminiscent of the creatures from Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal, while the other characters, particularly the humans and the gods, have the soft yet defined look that would be right at home in some of Disney’s greatest animated films.
As if that weren’t enough to make this a tempting book to read, the back of it contains further literary bounties, including details on the ongoing work on an animated version of the graphic novel as well as an interview with the author discussing his process. If nothing else, it provides an interesting insight into Alice’s work in adapting an opera into not one, but two different mediums.
While reading a graphic novel won’t have the same impact as listening to an opera, the change in format does little to dull what is undoubtedly a story of mythic proportions. It has everything you could ask for in a good fantasy story: action, conflict, and a legendary battle hovering just over the horizon. If anything, Siegfried is proof that while times may change, some stories are ageless. | Brent Mueller

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