First it got the movie treatment, and now “The City of Ember” is the latest in YA fiction to make the leap to graphic novel with a new release from Random House.
In Jeanne DuPrau’s book (adapted by Dallas Middaugh and illustrated by Niklas Asker) Doon and Lina are two children in Ember, an underground city that’s been inhabited for 241 years and is now under the rule of a corrupt Mayor. But there have been prolonged blackouts, and it appears the city is slowly running out of resources, maybe even food.
The residents have no concept of where they are or that there’s a much bigger world than their city entails. But then Lina’s baby sister and, presumably, her grandmother find a box that contains a tantalizing clue to the outside world. Then Doon finds evidence that the Mayor is stealing food from the people.
The dual findings take Lina and Doon on a journey through the city’s underbelly in search of an escape from the city and its guards.
It’s a neat story, but it felt rushed. I haven’t read the original book nor seen the movie, but so much about this book felt underdeveloped. There was a bit of characterization for the kids, but I get the feeling the Mayor played a much larger, more sinister role in the original. Here, he’s barely seen, and there’s little conflict until the end.
Or maybe it’s the source material. Either way, there’s not much meat on this story’s bones, which is something of a let-down. It takes the characters through their paces to an inevitable, obvious and not terribly dramatic conclusion.
Asker’s art is fine, but nothing special. The colors by Asker and Bo Ashi set a nice mood, though. Everything is pretty drab and tinged with a slightly yellow incandescence. It looks like you’d imagine a city underground with only artificial light might look.