Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest Review (Denise Mina, Andrea Mutti)


I never really understood the whole Stieg Larsson phenomenon. He wrote a trilogy of books that were bloated first drafts of some bad CSI episodes, threw in a ridiculous goth chick hacker character, and then died. Lisbeth Salander’s a sort-of interesting character (though that rests largely on her appearance in contrast to the staid looks of everyone else in the series) but the others? Not even slightly.

Well good news because she’s barely in this final volume! After being admitted into the ICU after being shot in the head (because bullets in the head aren’t ever fatal in fiction), she spends most of the book in a hospital bed doing nothing! At one point she goes on the internet with her phone (her “superpower”). Later she’s in a boring courtroom telling us things we already know about her life! And then she’s done. That’s the most interesting character in this book.

Mikael Blomkvist, the other main character, spends time retelling a convoluted plot to some faceless cops in an interrogation room. Then he goes to cafes and his office. His also goes to his flat. All the while, he doesn’t do or say anything worth reading. And then he goes to court to listen to Lisbeth’s testimony. That’s the second most interesting character in the book.

There are meetings between lawyers and cops, cops and suspects, journalists and cops, all of them so utterly inane to read. There’s even a bafflingly large amount of space given over to Erika’s totally disposable subplot about becoming an editor at a larger magazine, not fitting in, and leaving. Oh, she got a threatening email from a co-worker. Riveting stuff… zzz… This is why this series needed serious editing before being published but Larsson was dead by then so we got all the drek as is.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is an incredibly bland police procedural. I suppose I should be glad that the however-many-hundreds of pages that the Larsson novel had has been compressed to 250 in this graphic adaptation but Denise Mina’s script still feels rushed and unimpressive. It doesn’t help that the plot is dreary and all of the characters are despicable and/or drearier.

Andrea Mutti and Antonio Fuso’s art is simply terrible. Blomkvist’s character design is used more than once for other characters so he’s there on one page doing something and on the next, he’s doing something else – but it’s not him. Character designs in general are forgettable at best and there are random streaks of black ink daubed in the background for some reason. Flat colours, dull layouts, this is the most workmanlike approach to adaptation.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is laughably labelled a “thriller”. It was thrilling to finish it, I’ll give it that! The real mystery of why these books were ever popular at all remains unsolved.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

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