Joseph Lanzara's stunning adaptation of Dante Alighieri's INFERNO is such a fine work of art, certainly one of the most sophisticated Graphic Novels to be released, may at first suggest the old classic comics of old - the way many youngster's took the short cut to 'reading' the books assigned in school. But this graphic novel is far more than that. Joseph Lanzara has taken on the challenge of making this immense work of literature accessible to everyone: his narrative is eloquent, precisely correct and has a keen sense of distillation of Dante's THE DIVINE COMEDY written in 1317 and moves Dante's journey with Virgil into the depths of the inferno and the heights of the heavens so that the 'story' flows comfortably and comprehensively well.
Lanzara has wisely elected to use the classic illustrations created by Gustave Doré, the gifted French illustrator who provided the powerful imagery for Dante's work. As biographer's have written, `Gustave Doré's (1832-1883) illustrations and Dante's Divine Comedy have become so intimately connected that even today, nearly 150 years after their initial publication, the artist's rendering of the poet's text still determines our vision of the Commedia. Planned by Doré as early as 1855, the Dante illustrations were the first in a series he referred to as the "chefs-d'oeuvre de la littérature." In addition to Dante, Doré's list of illustrated great works included Homer, Ossian, Byron, Goethe, Racine, and Corneille. The placement of Dante's Commedia at the top of this list reflects the poet's popularity within mainstream French culture by the 1850s. The 19th century saw an expansion of interest in Dante's work which resulted in numerous translations of the Commedia into French, critical studies, newspapers, and specialized journals, and over 200 works of painting and sculpture between 1800-1930. Doré's choice of Dante's Inferno as the first of his proposed series of illustrated masterpieces of literature reflects the extent to which Dante had attained popular appeal in France by the 1860s. Finding it difficult to secure a publisher willing to take on the expense of producing the expensive folio edition the artist envisioned, Doré himself financed the publication of the first book of the series, Inferno, in 1861. The production was an immediate artistic and commercial success. Subsequently, Doré's Dante illustrations appeared in roughly 200 editions, with translations from the poet's original Italian available in multiple languages.'
And now Joseph Lanzara has added an entirely new dimension to the marriage of Dante and Doré, and referencing the English translations of the novel by Henry Francis Cary (1814) and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1867) he has develop the enormous scope of this epic into a succinct form, joining a selection of Doré's drawings with the adjacent words of Dante and the result is a visually powerful and literarily precise condensation of a masterpiece. The printing quality is excellent and the design of the story with the images is sophisticated.
For those who have never read THE DIVINE COMEDY this is an exceptionally fine a starting point: for those who have studied Dante this Graphic Novel presentation will be a delightful discovery. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, February 12