It’s hard to describe the experience of reading “The Red Diary”, as it’s a very different reading experience compared to your typical graphic novel. There’s actually two stories told in this graphic novel, and the novel itself is presented in a unique flip-book fashion. Teddy Kristiansen created this wonderful story, and Steven T. Seagle, who has worked with him on other works previously, translated the tale for the publication of this English volume. But Seagle also did something quite unique, as before he actually read “The Red Diary”, he looked at just the artwork, as the dialogue and narration was in a different language, that he didn’t understand himself. From this, he did what he calls in the book transliteration, as he wrote an entirely different story than Kristiansen’s, using the same artwork as a guide, but going in a different direction. Without being influenced by the writing from Kristiansen’s story, he could tell a different yet at the same time quite similar story, as both uses the exact same artwork. It’s quite an interesting experiment, and one which works quite well. The only downside to this is that each story is shorter than you might like, particularly the Kristiansen story, which I was completely immersed in, and absolutely loving. It’s interesting to note that your enjoyment of either story will be predicated on which story you ended up reading first. I read Kristiansen’s story first, and this did change how I read Seagle’s story, and I suspect the same would be true if you read Seagle’s story first. It’s a unique experiment that I really enjoyed, and Kristiansen’s artwork is quite unique and enjoyable, that I loved seeing the same artwork twice, but used in very different ways. Although the artwork is the exact same, the emphasis on the art was done differently, giving the book a very unique reading experience.
Kristiansen’s tale concerns a biographer in the modern day, who while doing a project comes across a blue diary from a painter living in Paris in the early 1900s, during the period of World War I. He soon becomes engrossed in following this man’s life story, leading him to more diaries, this time green and red. The story is enthralling, as you go along on this journey with the protagonist, as he seeks to discover a treasure lost in the annals of time, which is borne of a sidetrack during a biography project. As the reader witnesses this journey, more is learned of the protagonist, and what has brought him to this point, as it informs his journey. It’s a sad story, but a fascinating one all the same, as the mystery slowly unfolds.
Seagle’s story is a bit more straightforward, but puts a completely different spin on the artwork, as this time around the painter who finds himself in the trenches during World War I is actually the old man, before he lost most of his memories due to traumatic injuries suffered during the War. This time around, the diaries that he finds are a glimpse into his past, to learning more about the man he used to be, before he became a new man out of necessity, after his injuries. The journey of discovery is more immediate in this tale, because the protagonist is reading about himself, and trying to form some sense of who he was, compared to who he later became, with his past brushed clean.
This was an immensely entertaining read, and not one I was expecting in any way. The story slowly unfolds, but keeps the reader enthralled throughout, and you won’t want it to end. But when it does, you can take in the artwork one more time, but with a slightly different story affecting the art in a sneaky, subtle way. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!