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A stylized version of a sunset on Arrakis. Image: Bill Sinkiewicz/Herbert Properties

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Dune: The Graphic Novel cuts the fat from the Frank Herbert classic

But stays authentic with the help of Frank Herbert’s son

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I’m not the only person who is champing at the bit for Denis Villeneuve’s modern-day adaptation of Dune. In anticipation of a fall release — which was recently kicked down the road into 2021 — I actually picked up the original book from the library.

But... maybe it’s the year that we’re all living through right now, but it was really hard to stay focused past the first few chapters. That’s why I’ve found Dune: The Graphic Novel, Book 1 such a delight.

Who is making Dune: The Graphic Novel?

Based off the original 1965 classic by Frank Herbert, Dune: The Graphic Novel is adapted by the legendary science fiction author’s own son — Brian Herbert — alongside his long-time collaborator, Kevin J. Anderson. As the forward explains, the pair have done more than stand idly by in a great man’s shadow.

In our novels, we have developed the full stories of Duke Leto, Lady Jessica, the Baron Harkonnen, the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV, and his henchman Count Hasimir Fenring. We have traveled five thousands years further in the future to complete the epic that Frank Herbert outlined, and we have gone ten millennia deeper back in time to describe the origins of the Butlerian Jihad, the Fremen arriving on Arrakis, the establishment of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, the Mentats, the Nagvigators, and the Spacing Guild. We have written millions of words ...

Yeah, they just keep going like this for a few pages right there at the beginning of the book, but lord knows they’ve earned the right to after pumping out decades worth of new material. And that experience shows, especially in the way that this well-loved story has been curated for its most vital moments.

Cover art, and text, for Dune: The Graphic Novel, Book 1 Image: Abrams Comic Arts

Frank Herbert’s at times Dickensian narrative sprawl has been carefully elided, and highlighted with precise, engaging art by Raúl Allén (who’s worked in the past with the likes of Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker) and Patricia Martín (Wonder Woman with Steve Orlando, Bloodshot Reborn with Jeff Lemire). The cover even comes courtesy of Bill Sienkiewicz, the same Eisner Award–winning, Emmy-nominated artist who was hand-picked by David Lynch to illustrate the comic book adaptation of his 1984 version of Dune for Marvel Comics.

It’s an all-star cast, through and through.

Is Dune: The Graphic Novel good?

Hell yes. It’s Dune, but easier on the eyes.

I mention it above, but this treatment cuts to the chase by tossing out dozens and dozens of pages of explanatory text that I just... I just don’t have the energy for it right now, you guys. I’ve read the original a few times over and love it dearly, but this is something altogether different. You can see right there on the page what Frank Herbert takes ages to uncover. Best of all, it’s in a style that is completely new to the franchise.

Dune has had a lot of visual interpretations over the years, from Lynch’s bizarre pseudo-period piece treatment to the modern televised mini-series’ more gritty interpretation. Meanwhile, Villeneuve’s vibe appears to take its inspiration from more futuristic science fiction — all angles and chunky armor. Allén and Martín, on the other hand, opt for something a bit more steampunk.

Steampunk in space

The armor, the shields, the weapons, and even the costuming on display here tracks more like something out of Dishonored than a galaxy far, far away. You can see what I mean in this exclusive excerpt:

Dune: The Graphic Novel — Book 1 Image: Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, Raúl Allén, Patricia Martín/Abrams Comic Arts
Dune: The Graphic Novel — Book 1 Image: Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, Raúl Allén, Patricia Martín/Abrams Comic Arts
Dune: The Graphic Novel — Book 1 Image: Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, Raúl Allén, Patricia Martín/Abrams Comic Arts

That means you can indulge a bit here, taking time to remind yourself of what makes the original source material so good — or discovering it for the first time — without spoiling any of the visual spectacle of the upcoming movie.

Dune: The Graphic Novel, Book 1 goes on sale Nov. 24. The full-color hardcover runs 124 pages, and is only the first in a trilogy. The gang at Abrams Comic Arts also wanted to share this concept art as well, which gives you a glimpse of Paul in his stillsuit.

Concept art for Lady Jessica in Dune: The Graphic Novel — Book 1 Image: Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín/Abrams Comic Arts
Concept art for Paul in his stillsuit in Dune: The Graphic Novel — Book 1 Image: Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín/Abrams Comic Arts

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Dune: The Graphic Novel, Book 1

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Prices taken at time of publishing.

The original 1965 novel by Frank Herbert, adapted to a new format by his son Brian and his collaborated Kevin J. Anderson. With illustrations by Raul Allén and Patricia Martín. Cover art by the award-winning Bill Sienkiewicz.