Thank you, Motiv PR and Clover Press, for sending me an advanced reader’s copy of Gray for an honest review. The following novel deals heavily with sexual assault, rape and different forms of violence.

Arvind Ethan David‘s graphic novel Gray is a radical rework of the classic Oscar Wilde novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. The original piece follows a man who sells his soul and conscience in exchange for eternal youth, beauty and power. He spends his life murdering, raping and corrupting the people around him while his photo in the attic degrades and rots.

David’s reimaging takes these concepts and flips them. The Dorian Gray we find in his novel is a Millennial social media princess who drifts through the rich crowd of NYC. But, she is hiding some very big secrets. First, she’s a violent criminal. Second, an immortal creature of magic. Her goal is to seek revenge on the men who sexually assaulted her in college and caused her to become what she is today.

But her revenge hasn’t gone unnoticed. Hank Wutan, an African-American NYPD detective, is assigned to put a stop to these crimes. The two meet and fall for each other hard; unfortunately, they both work against each other. David sees Gray as a violent fantasy about how powerful, super-rich white men don’t always win, how the powerless can find justice and how a murderous demon and a law-abiding detective can be soul mates.

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Cover art for the graphic novel Gray

While Gray may pull some themes, names and the overall never aging bit from The Picture of Dorian Gray, outside of that, it is entirely unique and for that, I loved it. Honestly, you don’t need to know much about the original novel to understand what’s going on. From the moment I picked this up, I found myself drawn into the story. David did a terrific job of giving just enough information to keep the mystery alive while not becoming overly confusing or uninteresting.

I always wanted to know what would happen next or how someone fits into the overall story. David did a splendid job creating the characters for Gray. He brought them to life in front of my eyes through the current events and bits and pieces of their backstories. And while David does discuss social issues heavily within the book, it never feels overdone or gimmicky. I am interested in seeing how he will continue to tackle these issues in the next volume.

I can’t talk about Gray without sharing my love for the artwork within. It is a graphic novel, after all. Eugenia Koumaki, Diana Greenhalgh and Joana LaFuente are the all-female art team behind the novel. They bring David’s story to life through beautiful imagery that helps set the tones throughout. As the story shifts from serious tones to more light-hearted, the art follows suit without missing a beat. I know they are working on an audio drama, but I can’t imagine enjoying this story without the art.

I noticed while putting together this review that Amazon lists Gray’s reading age as 16 years and up. Without giving away too much of what happens within the novel, I think this is incorrect. Dorian Gray is out for revenge and some of the tactics she and her team use seem to be pulled right from a Saw film. This doesn’t make the story bad. In fact, it adds to the thriller aspect as we wait and see what will happen. It just doesn’t fit into the teen category.

Gray is a must-read in my book for those who love the idea of a modern-day take on The Picture of Dorian Gray or a thriller in graphic novel form. It is set to release on July 20, 2021, and can be purchased on Amazon and Bookshop.org.

This review was originally published on 6/29/21

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