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Published on October 21st, 2015 | by JCDoyle

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Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas Review

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Hunter S. Thompson’s drug fuelled road trip into the heart of the entertainment capital of the world bursts into the comic book world this week thanks to Troy Little and Top Shelf Productions.

Fear and Loathing insert 1.1

Right from the get go it’s obvious that this graphic novel is a straight adaptation of the novel with huge chunks lifted directly from Hunter S. Thompson’s work. There’s nothing here that will take you by surprise if you are already familiar with the work and I think if you were wanting to read Thompson’s classic book you’d go directly to the original source material; it’s not as if the novel is a rare tome or a massive body of work that could do with a little editing. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a twisted, image heavy, stream of consciousness that flows poetically from page to page. There’s no real need to give it the ‘illustrated’ treatment.

Having said that the illustration over the 170 plus pages of this graphic novel is perfect for this story; there’s a weight to it that gives it a realistic feel but at the same time the crazy visions of the central characters make the entire experience unnerving. Troy Little contorts the crazy adventurer’s faces through all possible emotional states, sometimes in the space of a single page. Little also creates a huge sense of depth in his panels giving the reader the impression of staring directly into these people’s lives like voyeurs of human disintegration.  There are moments where the very threat of violence bursts out of the confines of the panels, crossing the grid and gutters and dares you, the hapless reader, to judge what you are witnessing. This technique works well for Little, especially in the hotel bathroom scene where the spine tingling uncertainty of the situation is heightened by the fact that all the boundaries have been broken down, the reader becomes a part of the story and is right there with Duke in that steaming, music filled bathroom. Your heart slows and your breathing stops as the anticipation of Dukes actions cause you to go into shutdown; you don’t want to make a sound and ruin everything, what if the gonzo doctor awakes and finds you there? What will he do to you? He does have a massively machete after all…

Fear and Loathing insert 2

The characters are brilliantly simple while being distractingly complex at the same time; a feat achieved by blending the art and the narration together with a seamless ease that almost makes you forget how creatively produced this adaptation is. Little must have gone through Thompson’s novel with a fine tooth comb picking out every single descriptive word and then somehow turning them into comical yet emotional images. In one panel you have the comically elongated limbs of Duke striding through the Las Vegas debauchery only to switch to a worn and contemplative Duke sucking desperately, and quite realistically, on his cigarette, bemoaning his lot. The reader rides the highs and the lows of this massive drugs binge along with the two central characters.

This graphic novel does something I wouldn’t have thought possible; it enhances the experience of Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Think of it as an illustrated copy of the novel, like The Illustrated Hitch-Hikers Guide to The Galaxy; it’s not something that maybe needs to exist but it’s a damn fine piece of pointlessness. The time and the talent that’s gone into producing this book is evident on every page and none of the illustration takes anything away from the original work of literature, which is a problem with so many adaptations. It won’t replace the original but it will share a well-earned spot on the shelf next to it, along with the Terry Gilliam’s movie version.

You could ask “why would someone make this graphic novel?” and I would answer, “Read it, and tell me you aren’t glad they did so”.

Fear and Loathing cover

Title: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Publisher: Top Shelf Productions

Adapted by Troy Little

JCDoyle

JCDoyle

Lover of comics and Art and Sci-Fi in multiple media. Currently teaching my kids the ways of the Geek (while protecting my first editions)
JCDoyle

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