Stephen King’s N
Adapted by Marc Guggenheim
Art by Alex Maleev
I picked up a read the graphic novel adaptation of Stephen King’s N. some time ago and after digesting the work several diverging thoughts crossed my mine. The first was “this is awesome,” followed shortly by “if this was awesome was the short story awesomer”, and lastly concluded with “this would make a really neat short film or single episode of an anthology show.” N., published by Marvel as a four issue mini-series is adapated from the short story of the same name seen in Just After Sunset.
The story uses the classic horror mode of the confessional. Or rather several nested confessionals. This narrative device in which the author (or a fictional author constructed for the story) presents the fiction as truth goes as far back Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto (based on an “italian manuscript”) and employed authors like Edgar Allan Poe (The Narrative of Arthur Gordan Pyn of Nantucket) and H. P. Lovecraft (At the Mountains of Madness). This is the same narrative framework that, for better or for worse, has given birth to found footage horror films The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and Apollo 18. I am rather a fan of this narrative device, no matter what genre it is used in (though I think it is at its best in horror), and N. cleverly nests several narratives within one another.
The titlular N. is an OCD patient of Dr. John Bonstraint whose encounter with a strange formation of rocks exposes either deeper levels of neurosis or some rather horrific truths about the nature of the universe. Apparently N. is heavily influenced by Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan (which also inspired Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror) and, particularly in comic form, does a fantastic job of evoking an atmosphere of anxiety and terror. Maleev’s realistic pencils do not in any way hinder his ability to conjure truly horrific monsters and the heavy inks and muted colors used lend the images a palpable weight that really serves to enhance the atmosphere.
N. is complete but doesn’t provide answers to all the questions the narrative asks. Instead N. leaves just enough room to let the imagination of readers extrapolate the horror as far as their twisted minds will allow. If you are a fan of horror I highly recommend going out a grabbing a copy of N. or giving the 25-part motion comic a try.