March 31, 2010

  |  

I Kill Giants

Written by Joe Kelly
Illustrated by JM Ken Niimura
Image

Barbara is a young woman with a singular mission--killing giants. Unfortunately, she's not living in a fantasy world but instead a rather ordinary Long Island suburb. Thus, instead of being hailed as a hero, she's treated as having mental issues.

Only one girl is willing to get close to Barbara, but even she is pushed out as Barbara tries to keep herself walled away from everyone. A school counselor and a school bully, for very different reasons, just won't leave Barbara alone, however, and real life problems threaten to shatter her once and for all.

A very real storm is brewing in Barbara's life, but can even she slay the giant that she's been waiting for, once she learns its true nature?

This book is very much a slow burn. Kelly spends a lot of time (perhaps a bit too much in such a short series) getting to the climax, but it's worth sticking around to see some of the cool things in the book.

Kelly uses a girl as his protagonist, and one who doesn't feel the need to play with dolls, either. It was nice to see a girl featured as a person who likes mythology and gaming for a change. (This also leads to one of the best gag lines in the book.) Of course, her liking "boy" things is part of what makes her an outcast, so some of the coolness of the casting does lose a bit of its shine. Even here, in a comic book, it's still not okay to be a girl who likes typical male concepts.

I liked the snappy dialog between Barbara and the rest of the world. She's got the perfect acid tongue to go along with her stony demeanor. This plays out the best when Barbara is meeting with the principal or the counselor. Those are some of the best scenes in the book, as our heroine stands up for herself with all of her verbal abilities.

We also get some really nifty ideas in terms of how Barbara wants to stop the giants. She's seen creating all manner of traps and sacrifices, each more elaborate (and at times gross) than the one before. The mythology behind her secret weapon also works well and is fitting to any story like this.

I think Kelly did a pretty good job of capturing what it would be like to be Barbara. I may not agree with how things ultimately play out, but the problems she finds in her world (raised by older sister, bullied at school, and so on) feel real, as do the reactions of the various characters.

I have to admit, I wanted to like this one a bit more than I actually did, when all was said and done. I liked the idea that Barbara formed a mental idea of killing giants instead of trying to face the problems of her home life, but in the end, I think Kelly erred in how this split is resolved. After working so hard to set things up in one direction, by the climax, everything comes crashing down, including the premise that we've come to expect as the reader.

I'm not saying that books always have to follow a logical conclusion. It's just in this case, I think the logical answer was the correct one, and putting a new spin on the book in the final pages did not work for me in this case.

Speaking of things that may or may not be to your liking, Niimura's artwork will be something you either love or hate. I don't have any problem with abstract design in comics, so I thought it worked just fine. The sketchiness allowed for the blending of fact and fiction without requiring a change in visuals. He does a lot with facial features and closeups, adding to the tension. Plus, his designs for the giants we encounter are just plain cool. I'm glad this story was drawn as it was, rather than in an attempt to mimic a young adult novel or something.

I mean, this is a guy who put bunny ears on the main character. You just can't argue with that!

I Kill Giants is a good book worth reading. The subject matter is ultimately very sensitive, and Barbara's ability to accept or reject reality makes it a good story. I just don't think it was the story it could have been. Those who like adolescent-themed books about growing up should definitely find it well worth your time. I'd also recommend it for anyone who has a teen that's looking for books about people like them. Despite a few flaws, this was a book I'm glad I read. I think you'll feel the same after reading it.