Friday, 1 April 2011

Review – I Kill Giants

Written by – Joe Kelly
Art by – JM Ken Niimura
Published by – Image Comics

I find Giants. I hunt giants. I kill giants.

So I’ve been pondering on this review for I Kill Giants for a while. I swing from highs of yeah come on lets get on with it to lows of apathy and putting the book back on the shelf.  Don’t get me wrong the book is brilliant and is perhaps one of the best books I’ve read be that in comic book format or prose. But I do think this book is a very personal read and it will mean that everybody who reads it, will take from it something different. I won’t be spoiling this book in any way because quite frankly anybody who does spoil this book for someone who hasn’t read it deserves a punch in the face. Part of the joy of this book is watching it unfurl before you’re eyes and everybody should be given the opportunity to enjoy it unspoilt. So if you are at all interested in this book or it’s on your wish list, do yourself a favour and….
Stop reading this review, now go and get the book from your to read pile, order it online or pop down to your local comic, book shop, sit down and read it, cover to cover. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed. Oh and then obviously come back and finish reading this.
I Kill Giants was a seven issue run monthly title published by Image Comics between July 2008 and January 2009. Written by Joe Kelly with art by JM Ken Niimura, it tells the story of Barbara Thorson a little girl who whilst trying to deal with an unnamed looming family disaster retreats into a fantasy world. However Barbara’s make believe world has started to bleed over into the real world to such an extent that all she is able to talk about and prepare for is the impending invasion of giants. But some giants are far too big to be killed. However into Barbara’s fairly mixed up little life comes Sophia, who desperately tries to befriend her. But the course of true friendship is destined not to run smoothly or finish happily ever after.
In Barbara Thorson, Joe Kelly has created the ultimate geek anti hero, she is by no means a likeable character through much of the book she is spiky and unpredictable and prone to both verbal and violently physical outbursts. From the start of the book you can tell that there is something not quite right with Barbara, but that doesn’t make some of Barbara actions any more palatable or acceptable, or does it?  There is obviously something very big going on in her life, Barbara’s retreat into her fantasy world is her means of dealing with whatever that is, Kelly even takes the unusual  step of scratching out parts of the dialogue to keep the story under wraps until it’s time for the reveal later in the book.
I naively thought I had this book all sussed out, it is all too easy to make assumptions with this book. But I was quite unprepared for the amazingly well crafted last quarter of the book. It’s testament I think to Kelly’s writing that the book always stays believable and even when events take a turn for the fantastical, Kelly easily pulls things back from the brink and once again grounds it firmly in reality. When he finally reveals his hand it is simply a breathtakingly beautiful sucker punch that is both profoundly moving and life affirming in equal measure.     
Ken Niimura’s art works wonderfully well in this book it’s a very lose and sketchy style with a black and grey painted wash. The characters are very stylised but they fit the story brilliantly and reminded me a lot of Quentin Blake’s work in the Roald Dahl books. Barbara is a real work of genius as she displays her inherent geek-ness and outsider-ness perfectly and the addition of rabbit ears neatly hits home that there’s something a little off kilter with Ms Thorson. Another nice touch that Niimura pulls off is when we see the world through Barbra’s point of view. As you would expect there are pixies, fairy’s and other fantastical creatures abound and the panels in which we see her POV’s are brilliantly rendered. 

Final thoughts
I really do think it’s difficult to do this book justice in a review, for me it’s one of those books, it deserves to be read as widely as possible and I have already started handing my copy around to friends for them to read it. It is also a book that perfectly fits the comic book medium and I’m sure that it wouldn’t have worked quite so well in any other format. So a triumph on all levels and a book that deserves to be read, enjoyed and loved.

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