Monday, 9 July 2012

I Kill Giants - Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura

I haven't managed to read anything new since last week so I'm going to revisit a book I read about a year ago that I think is one of the best graphic novels I've ever read. It's called I Kill Giants and you should really check it out.

It's the story of a young girl named Barbara Thorsen. She is, of course, a giant killer. She has made it her duty to keep her town safe from giants. And she is very good at it.

She inhabits a world where she's just a bit different. She takes to wearing rabbit ears and is always a bit out of step with the rest of the student population at her school. But she's very self confident and assured, a really lovable and tough character.

What you come to find while you're reading, however, is that Barbara's giants aren't quite what she says they are. And there are some things that Barbara fears, despite her protestations. As the narrative unravels, you witness a coming of age tale really unlike any other. And you may just tear up a bit.

I loved I Kill Giants. It was leant to me in my early days of comic reading by my friend Tally and I ate it up in one night. It's engrossing in a way that not many stories are. It pulls you in and makes you question what you're reading, just as you're cheering Barbara on.

That's the real charm of the novel: it is nothing of what you think it is. I didn't start to realize the real story until I was a good halfway through it and once you see what is really going on, it hits you like an emotional dumbbell to the stomach. What seemed like a fun, if silly, little tale becomes so much more, a story of a young girl coming to an understanding with something she doesn't want to have to deal with. Something that no one really wants to deal with. It's hard and it's painful and it hurts and it's true. I dare you to not tear up while you're reading it. I may have sobbed. You know, just a little.

The characters are all well thought out and created. Barbara, of course, is a favorite but everyone else is just as developed. From her family to the kids at school, each character brings something to the story that needs to be there. It's a well formed narrative that has no excess or waste. The only issue I have with the supporting cast is a stylistic one. The principal is also drawn with fantastical cartoonishness that is only usually seen on Barbara. I wish the illustrator would have left Barbara as the only character that seemed somewhat magical as fits in with her depiction and her view of the world at large. But that's a minor thing.

Although the title is "I Kill Giants," I want to point out that this is not a fantasy book. It has elements of the fantastical but on the whole, it is very much set in the real world as becomes more apparent as time passes. This is a story of a young girl coping with the world around. It might seem a bit magical at first but all things pass.

I cannot recommend this book enough. If you like graphic novels and you haven't picked this up before, you need to do it. If you've always been curious about comics, this is a great first read. It has emotion, depth, silliness and strong characters. I really hope that you can check it out and love it as much as I do.

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