Who hasn't heard of Cruella De Vil? A larger-than-life socialite, a reckless driver, and an insane dognapper doing it all in the name of her love for fur coats...but what if this shrew was way more complex than you thought? Portrayed here as both amazing and awful, relatable and irredeemable, Cruella tells us all about her lavish, yet heartbreaking life.
Written in first-person like a memoir, Evil Thing released in July 2020 won the hearts of Serena Valentino's Villain Series, earning it the long-awaited and well-earned '' New York Times Best-Selling'' title.
Being such a fan of both Valentino's work and this particular book, I knew I had to grab this graphic novel the moment it hit the shelves. And can I just say, for the record, it exceeded my expectations: The story remains the same but with fun adjustments here and there that I appreciate, the characters are all so expressive and feel real, exactly like I imagined them as described in the book and a special red, black and white palette captures a haunting; Cruella-esque feeling.
From her childhood, Cruella has lived among the English upper class in a Belgrave Square mansion. Annoyed by subjects that are reserved for young ladies and uninterested in marriage, Cruella wants to travel the world with her best friend Anita.
Her relationship with her father, Lord De Vil is as endearing as her bond with her mother is complex and heartbreaking. Glamourous yet extremely materialist and cold, Cruella's mother keeps breaking her daughter's heart with neglect and abuse. Through finishing school, courtesy, birthdays, holidays, losses, and important decisions, Cruella becomes the villain we're all familiar with. It's a tale with a delicate but not watered-down approach to mental illness, grief, female friendships, mother-daughter relationships, feminism, and classicism.
Arielle Jovellanos captured the characters and universe perfectly, while also adding her seizing interpretation and recreating the nostalgia of One Hundred dalmatians. Lord De Vil is a perfect mix between a loving father, Clark Gable, and an English Lord. Lady De Vil is a cold beauty with her dark hair and eyes, hardened features, icy stares, and to-die-for dresses and coats.
Young Anita looks like a character from a Jane Austen novel, Jack matches the American type and his resemblance with another character, Miss Pricket remains delicate and motherly while Jackson still is the father figure of Belgrave Square. Regarding Arabella, she's the perfect snotty bully type while resembling a living doll and Miss Upturn's interpretation is simply brilliant a well as Sir Huntley's 'mole personality. Finally, young Cruella before her transformation is on point, as a child, teenager, or young woman: while it's easy to picture the madwoman she'll become due to subtle changes through the story, she looks both like Sophie from Les Malheurs de Sophie and Audrey Hepburn while remaining her own, unique character, alternating between a broken human being, a hopeful girl and a bewitching young lady. I even squealed when I saw puppy Perdita and... Mrs. Web REALLY is a spider. I mean her collar even looks like a spider's web.
Janet Sung's saturation of red, as Cruella is losing her mind was also a nice touch. I particularly liked that the jade earrings were portrayed as gray the first time they are shown, thus fully showing Cruella's point of view on the story and its items, as she, for a moment, consider this gift dull. The spider shadow in the morning room, the dalmatian puppy in the schoolroom as well as Serena Valentino and her dog Gozer's cameos remain subtle but important points and add exciting layers to the material. Also, much like in the quite different Cruella movie released earlier this year, the fashion was ON POINT. Cruella, Lady De Vil, and Anita's outfits were absolutely gorgeous and very representative of their different personalities.
Thanks to the perfect balance between storytelling and art, through Valentino's word, Jovellanos' art, and Sung's colors, Evil Thing is a magical and poignant graphic novel, filling our eyes with wonders on one page and watering them in the next one. I'm crossing my fingers for more graphic novel adaptations of Serena Valentino's villain series and look forward to reviewing Arielle Jovellanos and Janet Sung's other works.
Rating system: 5 out of 5 jade earrings.