Great news, Masterminds: the tesseract is officially back in style! What's a tesseract, you ask? Oh, just a cosmic cube with the power of the universe inside. And earlier this year, we watched The Avengers fight to keep this mysterious power source in safe hands. But you know who was writing about tesseracts before Joss Whedon made it cool? Madeleine "awesome-incarnate" L'Engle, whose scifi classic A Wrinkle in Time has just been given a makeover by graphic novelist Hope Larson. Whether you are a total L'Engle noob or a tesseract veteran, you're going to want to pick up this book.
The story, for those who are unfamiliar, follows Meg Murry, a teen misfit bullied by students and teachers alike. She performs poorly in school, though this has less to do with her intelligence (which is abundant) than her unhappiness over the disappearance of her father, a scientist who was working with the mysterious tesseract. The only person who understands her is her little brother Charles Wallace, who possesses prophetic powers. He introduces her to three mysterious guiding forces, Mrs Who, Mrs Whatsit, and Mrs Which. Meg, Charles Wallace, and Meg's classmate Calvin O'Keefe embark with them on an adventure across time and space to find her father and, as is custom, save the world.
What makes the book such a classic is L'Engle's imagination and passion for big ideas, which shine through in Larson's adaptation. L'Engle had been reading up on quantum physics and the special theory of relativity before writing the novel, and brought the concept of using wormholes into the larger public imagination. The book also contains fascinating messages about bullying, feminism, cosmic perspective, personal responsibility, and a Firefly-like theme of the strength of individuality over conformity.
It was such a revolutionary bundle of ideas that L'Engle was rejected by dozens of publishers, who considered it too obsessed with integrating science and religion, too smart for young children, and too reliant on female characters. These are also reasons A Wrinkle in Time is one of the most frequently banned books, and you know forbidden books are simply the sweetest.
For any devoted L'Engle fans worried that such a cocktail of ideas might not be adequately represented in graphic form, great news: you are absolutely right. It can't, and Larson understands that. That's what makes this adaptation successful. It's simply a sketch, and will encourage interested readers to march deeper into the world by picking up the original.
Larson's illustrations do add a new layer to the story, though her reliance on blue-tones seemed way too limiting. Why travel to vast outposts of space and time without a little color here and there? Even the book's famous red-eyed man did not have red eyes, but blue, to match the color scheme. Give us some real red eyes, gosh darn it! Do we want this man to look evil or not?
What the illustrations lack in color, however, is made up for by Larson's talent for conveying emotion. Her depiction of Meg's rage is a thing of beauty, and she manages to show that this emotion makes the character both powerful and vulnerable. There is a scene in which Meg shouts the Declaration of Independence to avoid being hypnotized by the forces of evil. The visuals and text work together so well that your brain and heart will be melted simultaneously. And frequent brain-heart-melts are all you can really ask of any book.
A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel is out now.