No, this is not a graphic novel based on the first book in the Divine Comedy. In fact, the graphic novel Dante’s Inferno is based on a video game, which in turn is very loosely based on the Inferno.
I haven’t played the video game, but I have read the original Dante’s Inferno, and it’s safe to say that this is quite an unorthodox — if alluring — retake on the Italian masterpiece. People who are bothered by changes will probably not like this graphic novel and will wince from all the alterations made. Nevertheless, if you’re willing to give this graphic novel a try and not constantly compare it to its predecessor, it’s quite a darkly hypnotic read.
The graphic novel begins with a narration by Beatrice. She is lovers with Dante and is awaiting his return from fighting in the Crusades. Before he can get back to her, however, she’s murdered and her soul is seized by the devil.
The devil shows her disturbing — and true — images of Dante slaying civilians, but she doesn’t believe what she sees. She still trusts Dante. The devil makes a wager with Beatrice, saying that if Dante has been unfaithful to her while away, her soul will remain in hell. On the other hand, if Dante has been faithful, she will be released. Beatrice, still believing in Dante, agrees to the wager.
Unfortunately for her, Dante is not the idolized man she thought he was. He was unfaithful to her while away. He caused the deaths of countless people, including members of Beatrice’s family. His sins run deep.
Despite all this, Dante still has his love for Beatrice and is mortified that she’s being punished for his transgressions. He goes deep into hell, trying to get her back. It won’t be easy. The farther he travels, the more he realizes the degree of his own sins. And the more time passes, the more the old Beatrice fades away. And the more Beatrice understands what Dante has done, the stronger her disgust and hatred for him grow.
The illustrations in Dante’s Inferno are fascinating to say the least. The cover illustration is not at all like the illustrations inside the book. The pictures are wispy, surrealist, dark. Sometimes they almost look realistic, but there’s always a dreamy modification to them. The drawings are often like something out of a nightmare; not in the sense of being awful, but in the sense of being dark, dreary and full of meaning.
Reviewed by Danica Davidson on July 10, 2012