A lone woman appears beside a circle of standing stones. No one knows why this “Sassenach”—this Outlander—has appeared in their midst half-naked wearing only a shift, but truth be told the Scottish Highlanders with whom she has fallen in have other, bigger worries. It’s 1743, and tensions between them and the English are on the rise. The sadistic “Black Jack” Randall taunts them with his cruelty. Meanwhile, the mysterious woman is entrusted into the care of Jamie Fraser, a handsome young man with a price on his head. Despite a dark past, he is soon captivated by her.
The woman’s name is Claire Randall Beauchamp, and she is a nurse who hails from the mid-20th century. Somehow, she has been magically transported back to a time where her husband’s ancestors made history—to the eve of violent tragedy that will be forever etched into Scotland’s history. And she is about to discover the greatest love of her life, time travel notwithstanding.The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel retells the events of the first third of Diana Gabaldon’s classic novel of historic fantasy and romance from the point of view of Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser, Jamie’s godfather and sworn protector.
Few of Gabaldon’s legions of devoted fans are likely know to that, before she penned Outlander, she spent several years writing scripts for Walt Disney Comics. A longtime lover of comics herself, she jumped at the opportunity to be actively involved in the graphic novel edition of her most famous creation, and in The Exile are clear traces of both her enthusiasm and experience. The storyline, though not narrated from Claire’s perspective, remains utterly true, and the marriage of picture and text is a skillful one—this is not, thankfully, one of those books that tells you in a text bubble what you are supposed to be looking at in the panel.
Artist Hoang Nguyen brings his considerable raw talent to the table here, with page after glossy page of wistfully colored, pitch-perfect airbrushed romance. Although the transitions between panels are occasionally clumsy and the action scenes invariably awkward, Nguyen’s pinups of the main characters are absolutely dead on, and devotees of the novels will rejoice when they see the lovely Claire and the handsome Jamie come to life. Naturally, one must not forget to include also the obligatory fanservice: the wedding scene, its explicitness a subject of much editorial debate and controversy.
Few comic adaptations of novels ever live up to the original, especially when the novel a one as complex as The Outlander. Nevertheless, Del Rey has managed to produce a credible addition to Gabaldon’s literary oeuvre that is certain to become a must-have for loyal readers who are liable to have never picked up a graphic novel before. Given that, the fascinating and extensive behind the scenes commentary at the conclusion of the book is not just a bonus but arguably a necessity. In sum, The Exile represents a rare opportunity, and one that ought not to be missed. Recommended.