Graphic artist Humayoun Ibrahim will never be accused of aiming too low by choosing the 1961 Jack Vance short story “The Moon Moth” as the basis for his debut graphic novel. The challenges are formidable. As his legions of admirers know, much of the appeal of Vance’s work is his baroque, ornate prose style.
Then again, what better source of inspiration for a graphic adaptation than an author whose words paint such glorious, imaginative images?Fortunately, Ibrahim lives up to the challenges in THE MOON MOTH, a noteworthy, lovingly faithful adaptation.
It’s been three months since young Edwer Thissell was assigned as the new Consular Representative of the Home Planets on the distant planet of Sirene, and Thissell is still adjusting to life on his new home. The Sirenese all wear masks to indicate their social status. Additionally, they communicate by song, playing a variety of instruments they carry on the belts of their robes.
One morning, Thissell receives an urgent message from the office of his supervisor. A notorious assassin and agent provocateur named Haxo Angmark is reportedly headed for Sirene. Thissell is ordered to track down and kill him before Angmark’s trail of destruction further complicates matters.
It’s challenging enough to truly know who you are dealing with on Sirene. But since Angmark himself will be wearing a mask, how can Thissel expect to find him among the Sirense and effectively put an end to his deadly exploits?
Just before beginning the story, Ibrahim introduces his graphic styling with two pages of sharply detailed description of the various Sirenese musical instruments and their proper use for social interaction. Here, as well as the opening scenes on Thissell’s houseboat, Sirene is vividly presented in all of its expected bright and colorful glory — aided in no small part by Hilary Sycamore’s expressive and intensive colors.
Ibrahim wisely chooses to express those moments of exchange through song with slightly ornate letterings, and impressively manages to convey the inner emotions of Thissell and the other masked characters through gestures and body language.
Ibrahim’s talents for graphic adaptation, as evidenced in this first published work, are obviously applicable to any kind of genre. Yet if THE MOON MOTH is any indication, Ibrahim might find himself the preferred graphic interpreter for the works of Vance — much like Darwyn Cooke has become for the Richard Stark series of Parker novels.
For the uninitiated, First Second Publications has included “The Genre Artist,” Carlo Rotella’s 2009 NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE article on Vance’s work and continuing influence on authors whose success has far exceeded their mentor. Who knows? With luck, Ibrahim might also be credited with a resurgence of interest in Vance’s varied and rewarding works of science fiction and fantasy. —Alan Cranis