What’s on your Summer Reading List? I consider summer the season to find and devour those books people keep telling me I should read. Well here’s a book I’m telling you that you should read.
Barbara Thorson is a giant killer. At least in theory anyway. She’s been preparing, reading, planning, her “war-hammer” is in her purse and she is ready for anything. Well she would be if she weren’t being bullied in school and the problems at home. Her older sister is handling parental duties, due to the fact that her father is not around and her mother is, well, sick. Very sick.
And that’s where the story gets intense, Barbara, dungeon master, giant killer, middle school bully resistor, is not handling it well. In fact her mother’s sickness is the catalyst for all her problems. Joe Kelly does something very impressive with Barbara’s story. An outcast, pretty much friendless, we see that her fantasies border on delusions. She could easily come across as disconnected from reality, after all she’s not only preparing to fight giants she also speaks to and sees fairy folk, but instead we get the feeling like this is how she’s coping and if everything would just work out she’d be a fairly normal kid.
Barbara is at times a hero, standing up to the school bully, but she’s flawed hero. Her grief and fear about what’s going on at home causes her to run afoul of her teachers, principal, friends, and family again and again. Her interactions with her siblings feel totally genuine as well. Often children with a sick parent find that along with lashing out and getting into trouble they can fade into the background and not even be noticed at times. Joe Kelly’s storytelling keeps her clear of the simple “troubled-kid” label and through friendships and confrontation shows us a little girl striving to find answers in a world that has none.
When the climax comes, and you wouldn’t believe what happens if I told you, you’re completely ready for either a cop-out happy ending or a total gut punch. It is neither, courting pain and happiness equally and giving the most satisfying ending I could imagine.
A word or two about the art. Ken Niimura has gone on record saying that this was his first long professional work which is surprising considering over the 7 issues contained in this volume he maintains an amazingly tight nuanced storytelling style. He delivers pages that took my breath away on more than one occasion.
If I Kill Giants, by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura, isn’t on your best of list it’s because you haven’t read it yet. This is a book I came a cross years ago, and honestly I can’t tell you who recommended it to me (I wish I could because they deserve a big thank you.) This is one of those books you can hand anyone, comic book fan or not, and get a really positive reaction. I Kill Giants is a story of fear, hope, love, loss, growth, so many things and it has an approach that doesn’t beat you over the head with its message.
I Kill Giants
Written by Joe Kelly
Art by J.M. Ken Niimura
Publisher: Image Comics
Genres: Drama, Fantasy, Leading Ladies, School Life
Page Count: 221
Age Rating: 12+ Only