While it brings little new to the original stories, POE: STORIES AND POEMS is a beautiful and dark adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's work. By adding concrete settings and characters to these narratives, a new depth is achieved that only enhances these iconic tales.
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Fall into this Pit
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Edgar Allan Poe is one of America’s greatest short story writers. With hundreds of published stories, essays, and poems, Poe defined the American Gothic movement. His dark, metaphoric writing dug into the depths of his life and emotions, the travesties and loss he had experienced. His work has been adapted into many forms, warranting films and inspiring a multitude. With POE: STORIES AND POEMS, Candlewick Press has enlisted artist Gareth Hinds to adapt Poe’s greatest works into a comic book format. Now, the darkness of Poe’s stories has a visceral new medium for a new generation of readers. But when the Raven cries, should you answer?

What Lies in the Pit

POE: STORIES AND POEMS comes with seven included works by the famed author. Headlining the group is Poe’s plague drama “The Masque of the Red Death.” This collection also includes “The Cask of Amontillado,” “Annabel Lee,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Bells,” and Poe’s most well-known works, “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven.” Each is stunningly rendered in a beautifully textured pastel art style. Hinds also includes his notes on the work, detailing his artistic decisions on setting and characters. This was a welcome inclusion, as it gave an insight into adapting prose work.

Image courtesy of Candlewick Press

Instead of a Scythe, He Held a Pendulum

This collection of Poe’s work is hard to review. How do you critique the plot of a story that defined an entire genre? Poe’s work is iconic, leaving me to gawk in amazement at his use of language. However, in many ways, that is my primary critique of this collection. Hinds directly adapted each of these stories and poems onto the page with little change. He brought nothing truly new to the stories. “The Masque of the Red Death” especially took everything straight from the original published story.

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One of the joys of adapted stories lies in the collaboration. The original author and the modern bring a dual perspective to the work that blend together to make a wholly new creation. However, with POE, if you already own a full collection of his stories, the need to purchase this volume is lessened. What you get in this volume is an illustrated, abridged edition to Poe’s most valued work. For many readers, the price doesn’t match the worth.

Image courtesy of Candlewick Press

Remove the Masque

With all of that said, I personally found a lot of worth in this collection. To say nothing of the literary value, Gareth Hinds’ art is a masterpiece of the medium. Though the adaptation doesn’t add to the lore of the stories, the illustrations create setting and character. As Hinds details in his end notes, Poe rarely included character or setting descriptions. Based on story hints, the reader could determine the basic time and place. However, they weren’t obvious. In many ways, the inclusion of the art does provide a concrete setting to the events. While this doesn’t save the graphic novel’s plotting issues, the art itself makes this a valuable item for fans. The illustrated poems themselves, filled with large, unpaneled splash pages, were a beautiful sight to behold. The sand castle sepulcher found in “Annabel Lee,” for example, pays witness to the potency of the medium

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As someone who had previously read very little Edgar Allan Poe, I found this book incredibly appealing. I especially had little knowledge of his poetry outside of “The Raven.” The chance to read these texts for the first time with such a beautifully detailed accompaniment makes it worth the time and price of admission. Also, the ability to finally see a character’s attire, to know where they stand, gives the dark events of this world a visceral weight.


Image courtesy of Candlewick Press

Final Thoughts on POE: STORIES AND POEMS

POE: STORIES AND POEMS is a striking and dark adaptation of an American icon. These stories have inspired writers for generations, and their dark tone defined the American Gothic movement. POE: STORIES AND POEMS does not add much to that formula, and many fans may be dissuaded. However, for new readers or those looking for an aesthetically pleasing experience, this book needs to be on your bookshelf.

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