Dune: The Graphic Novel, Book 1 by Frank Herbert. Adapted by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (graphic novel review).

The original novel ‘Dune’ is now, reputedly, the best-selling Science Fiction book in the world. Despite being partly serialized in ‘Analog’, at least twenty publishers rejected it and then went on to win both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Just goes to show. Apart from the five sequels written by Frank Herbert, there are also prequels galore by Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson who have also adapted the first book for this graphic novel.

Brian and Kevin are not universally loved for their ‘Dune’ work but here they stuck very closely to the original text. I’m not a ‘Dune’ fanatic but I have read the first four Frank Herbert books twice, about twenty years apart and the last two once, which was enough.

Dune’ is set thousands of years in the future in an interstellar feudal society where great houses control their own fiefs under the rule of Emperor Shaddam IV. He has the toughest soldiers, the elite Sardaukar. Perhaps the greatest of the noble families are the Atreides and the Harkonnens, the former good, honest heroes and the latter dastardly villains. I think critics of Brian and Kevin’s follow up works forget that there were space opera elements in Frank Herbert’s originals, though there was a lot more besides about religion, ecology and politics.

The story begins as House Atreides is ordered by the Emperor to take over the fief of Arrakis from the Harkonnens. They are to move from their present watery homeworld of Caladan to the desert planet where the spice melange is harvested from the sands. Melange is valuable, not least because without the multi-dimensional awareness it provides, interstellar space travel is impossible. Arrakis or Dune is an extremely inhospitable climate and only the Fremen, dangerous tribes with their own strange culture, can live in the deep desert. There are also sandworms four hundred metres long which can eat you, your ship and your enormous spice harvester in one big gulp.

Duke Leto is head of House Atreides and possibly the only decent bloke in the story, but the focus of the story is his son Paul, now aged fifteen. Paul’s mother, Jessica, is one of the Bene Gesserit, a sisterhood who have developed physical and mental techniques which make them a powerful force in the empire. Using melange, the Bene Gesserit can access ancestral memories but only on the female side. They also have a breeding program aimed at producing the Kwisatz Haderach, a boy who can access male memories. Jessica was meant to have a daughter as part of this program. Defiantly, she gave her beloved husband a son and has also trained Paul in the ways of the sisterhood. Might he be the Kwisatz Haderach?

The Atreides move to Arrakis prepared for treachery and booby-traps left behind by the Harkonnens and the story develops from there. If you’ve read it, you know, but if this graphic novel is your first time with ‘Dune’ then lucky old you. It’s a great story.

I think it’s a good adaptation, too. The book is illustrated by Raul Allen and Patricia Martin. There are some dynamic action sequences in the tale but a lot of it is talking so the art is often inevitably static. The illustrations are perfectly competent and the storytelling effective but don’t expect a Marvel super-hero style. It seemed to me to have a European feel, like the French ‘Bandes dessinées’, hardly surprising given that both members of the art team are Spanish.

At the start, the scenes on Caladan are generally blue in hue and the events on the Harkonnen homeworld are tinted red. After that, the colours remain muted so the feel is more realistic. They could have made different artistic choices but these are not bad ones by any means and it’s wonderful to have a decent graphic novel adaptation at last. I enjoyed it and look forward to the next two volumes.

Eamonn Murphy

February 2021

(pub: Abrams Comic Art, 2020. 183 page graphic novel hardback. Price: £17.99 (UK), $24.99 (US), $31.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4197-3150-1)

check out website: www.abramscomicarts.com

2 thoughts on “Dune: The Graphic Novel, Book 1 by Frank Herbert. Adapted by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (graphic novel review).


  • Damn bro’ you gave the plot away. I think we both gave up after God Emperor. One presumes this was released as a tie in with the upcoming movie release


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