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Book Review: Mercy Thompson: Homecoming by Patricia Briggs

# Genre: Paranormal Fantasy, Graphic Novel
# Hardcover: 112 pages
# Publisher: Del Rey/Dabel Brothers
# Publication Date: August 25, 2009
# ISBN-10: 0345509889
# ISBN-13: 978-0345509888

In the first graphic novel set in the paranormal fantasy world created by New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs, her heroine Mercy Thompson is given an origin story. The novel, Mercy Thompson: Homecoming follows coyote shapeshifter Mercy as she attempts to obtain a teaching job in the Tri-Cities, is attacked by territorial werewolves, and must mediate their dispute.

The story in this graphic novel is only going to appeal to readers of Briggs’ novels. It was extremely difficult to enter the story, and while the character of Mercy is interesting, there was a presupposition by the author that the reader was familiar with the world she had created. Many characters from her novels make it into the story, and Briggs plays on a reader’s knowledge of the character from the novels rather writing actual characterization. A reader will get a sense of Mercy’s rough but intelligent nature, but all the other characters are amorphous blobs and caricatures.

The novel is actually a compilation of a four issue mini-series. The flow from issue one to two is completely disjointed. Though the way that Briggs moved forward in time does become evident later, the move from a straightforward narrative to a flashback style construction made it hard to enjoy the story itself. I spent more time wondering what was going on and just how the world was put together than enjoying the tale or the artwork.

Speaking of art, there are some problems here as well. The four issue switched artists mid-series and so there is some disconnect in the way the characters are depicted, as one would expect when two styles are presented. Francis Tsai was more linear and with a darker color palette, looking more like a modern American cartoon like the Batman animated series from the 1990s whereas Amelia Woo was softer in her drawing and allowed for the use of brighter colors to create contrast.

There is an excess of nakedness in the story. Briggs’ to add realism, does not allow the clothes of a shapeshifter to shift as well, so every time Mercy shifts, we get to see her naked. In fact, entire panels are focused on the shift, and book opens with just such a shift. Pages 3-8 are have a naked heroine in nearly every panel. As a result, that puts this book out of the reach of most children and even many teens. There is full-frontal nudity, though highly stylized of course. And Mercy is a busty woman, as these artists make abundantly clear.

While this will offend some and not bother others, it is not the nakedness itself that is problematic, but rather the fact that the art seeks opportunities to show off the curvaceousness of Mercy to excess. Mercy, a strong female character by all accounts and reviews, is objectified by the art, and it almost seems as if the editors felt that there was not enough story quality to draw in readers, and so they made sure men would buy the book by depicting Mercy without clothes or nearly naked as often as possible.

But the greatest failure of this tale is in the story. There simply is no way for a reader unfamiliar with Briggs to enjoy as story that is so heavily dependent on prior knowledge. Briggs does not make the transition from novel to graphic form well. The story is not compelling, is disjointed, and is low on details needed to make the characterization complete, and the plot line full and rich.

This novel should not have been published in this condition, and is likely to be bought only be fans, who may find themselves disappointed anyway. New readers of Briggs are advised to steer clear, as they will not “get” the story. The transition from story to graphic novel can be done well, but Mercy Thompson: Homecoming is not one of those times.

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