Posted on June 27, 2008 by Monica Valentinelli
What do you get when you mix an ancient Sanskrit epic that is integral to the Hindu religion with a graphic novel? You get Ramayan 3392 A.D. Created by Deepak Chopra and Shekahr Kapur, the graphic novel attempts to transcend the boundaries of normal storytelling into this visual medium. Is it successful?
To put Ramayan 3392 A.D. into perspective, think about what it must have been like when Marvel Illustrated’s staff put together Homer’s The Iliad into graphic novel form. This particular graphic novel is a re-imagining–not a re-telling–which is an important distinction to make. Here’s part of the introduction that Deepak Chopra and Shekhar Kapur wrote:
Ramayan 3392 AD is a re-imagining of one of the greatest myths ever told — the Indian epic Ramayan. As the original, created over 5,000 years ago, ours is a story of mystery, magic, intrigue, adventure, heroism, courage, betrayal, fall-from-grace, and redemption.
If you thought that The Iliad was a long story to tell, Ramayan 3392 AD is one of epic proportions. Herein lies my only criticism of the work. There are a lot of unfamiliar names and setting descriptions that were a bit challenging for me to latch onto since I have never read the original story. I don’t really think there was any way around this, unless they decided to go with a few pages dedicated to brief bios of the characters. Here you have a complex story, a full cast of characters, and a setting set far into the future, the third age of mankind.
The plot begins with a world that has barely survived the apocalypse; only two Nations remain. One in the North where the last of humanity dwells, and the other in the South filled with a race of Asuras or what I regarded as demons. The South is led by Ravan, a demonic ruler bent on taking over what little is left of the world. The North is ruled by a magnificent city called “Armagarh,” which is host to a ruling council led by a man who has four sons. The hero of this tale is one of these four sons; his name is Rama, recognizable by his blue skin.
The story is primarily about Rama’s journey through battles an exile and a fate-filled quest involving his duty to protect a beautiful seer who is the key to the world’s salvation. Like any epic tale, there are plots within plots centered around the four brothers and the struggle between good and evil in the North and South. Toward the end, the novel turns into a different direction, focusing on Rama’s remaining family in the North and their attempt to reclaim the throne.
If I was going to pick one reason why I think this is a worthy graphic novel to pick up, is because the artwork is really stunning. The cover art was created by legendary artist Alex Ross, and the interior pages were designed by a team of artists and colorists including Abhishek Singh, Satish Tayade, Ashwin Chikerlir, and K. Sampath Kumar. From a high-tech futuristic city to a post-apocalyptic ravaged land, the technique used to visualize this epic tale mixes traditional pen-and-ink styles with innovative uses of color.
To learn more about Ramayan 3392 AD, visit Virgin Comics Ramayan 3392 AD Reloaded Online. There’s been talk of a multi-player game based on this epic tale, but it seems like nothing has come to fruition quite yet. Here’s the press release announcing the MMO based on Ramayan 3392 AD from August 2007.
In the world of good versus evil, sometimes the oldest stories prove to be truly timeless.
Review by Monica Valentinelli