Guest Post: The Infernal Devices Vol 1: Clockwork Angel: Manga Review

Not too long ago I reviewed The Infernal Devices, Volume 1: Clockwork Angel, HyeKyung Baek’s graphic novel adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s novel by the same name. While I am familiar with The Infernal Devices, I haven’t actually read any of the original trilogy. I do, however, know people who have and thought it might be interesting to get another perspective on the work. And so I decided to bribe my good friend Traci with manga in exchange for her thoughts on the adaptation. The video below (a first for Experiments in Manga) is the result. I’m extremely excited that she agreed and am very pleased to welcome Traci to Experiments in Manga!

Hello, all. My name is Traci and I am the mastermind behind the alwynuu channel and Traci Reads vlog on YouTube. I am a photographer by passion and trade and a wanderer, philosopher, and reader by desire and happenstance. I enjoy most things geeky and nerdy, odd literary adaptations, and any genre that includes some form of magic or supernatural business. Don’t be shy. Drop in on occasion and see what I’ve gotten up to and where I’ve wandered.

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The Infernal Devices, Volume 1: Clockwork Angel

Creator: HyeKyung Baek
Original story: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Yen Press
ISBN: 9780316200981
Released: October 2012

The Infernal Devices is a three-volume series of novels written by Cassandra Clare as a sort of prequel to her popular and longer series The Mortal Instruments. Now, I actually haven’t read either series myself, but because of their popularity and the fact that my youngest sister and some of my close acquaintances devour the novels, I am not entirely unfamiliar with them. I took notice when Yen Press announced that The Infernal Devices had been selected to receive a manga-style graphic novel adaptation. Manhwa artist HyeKyung Baek is adapting and illustrating The Infernal Devices for Yen Press. I’m not familiar with Baek’s previous work, but Yen Press has published her series Bring It On! and she is also working on Yen Press’ Gossip Girl adaptations. Clockwork Angel, the first volume of The Infernal Devices graphic novels which adapts the first novel of the original trilogy, was released in 2012.

After the death of the aunt who was looking after her, Tessa Gray leaves New York to join her brother Nathaniel in London. Upon her arrival she is almost immediately abducted. While being held captive by the Dark sisters, Tessa learns something she never knew about herself—she’s a shape-changer and not quite human. Suddenly, she’s thrust into a supernatural world of vampires, warlocks, and werewolves. And then there are the Shadowhunters—the Nephilim—who fight against the demonic forces that exist in the world. The Shadowhunters have taken a great interest in Tessa, as well, and take her in after rescuing her. She becomes particularly close with two young Shadowhunters, but Will and Jem both hide their own secrets. Tess isn’t the only one having a hard time in London, either; her brother has also disappeared. The only family she has left, Tessa will do everything she can to find him.

Since I haven’t read the original Clockwork Angel, I can’t really comment on how the graphic novel compares or even works as an adaptation. However, I do get the impression that readers who are already familiar with The Infernal Devices novels will be able to appreciate the graphic novel more than those who are not. Despite the often text-heavy adaptation, the magic system and mythology of Clockwork Angel is never thoroughly explained, which left me somewhat confused in places. The storytelling is a bit uneven as well, most likely the result of trying to incorporate too much of the original volume into a single graphic novel. But one of the things that frustrated me the most was that part of the reasoning behind the nefarious plots and schemes in Clockwork Angel was something that wasn’t even hinted at until it was reveled during the climatic final battle. The complete lack of lead-up irked me immensely.

But not all is bad in the Clockwork Angel graphic novel adaptation. I particularly appreciated the clever uses of Tessa’s shape-changing abilities. The graphic novel might be a little heavy on the dialogue, but there are some great one-liners, too. (However, the humor sometimes feels a bit out of place in what is predominantly a dark story.) At this point I’m not entirely convinced by the potential romance between Tessa and Will, but they do have some of the more interesting character interactions. Jem and Tessa have some great moments, too. But to be honest, Jem and Will’s stories interest me much more than Tessa’s. While some of Jem’s secrets have been revealed in Clockwork Angel, Will is still something of an enigma. I can’t say that the Clockwork Angel graphic novel has inspired me to seek out future volumes or even the original novels, but I am left intensely curious about Will. The graphic novel is choppy, but Clockwork Angel can be engaging and it ends with quite a hook.