Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist & Designer: JM Ken Niimura
Publisher: Image Comics
I feel lucky enough over the past year or so to be handed some pretty interesting and less mainstream books to muse over in my role here as semi-regular reviewer (ok, it’s supposed to be regular, but I’m failing big time at the moment, sorry Ed) for the Comics Nexus. Usually I prefer to it isn’t easy when something is just this good – I Kill Giants, the seven-issue mini-series published by Image Comics, is a rare but very special treat.
A wondrous mix of fantasy, coming-of-age tale and family drama, I Kill Giants follows the story of Barbara Thorson, a loner child struggling with life at school, and avoiding her family at home. Cared for by her elder sister Karen, Barbara spends most of her time playing Dungeons & Dragons. And it’s no surprise that she is the best there is when it comes to RPGs – because apparently, in real life, armed with the mighty hammer Coveleski, Barbara is a giant killer!
Barbara clearly has an ongoing battle with monsters – but the origin of these demons remains delicately concealed from the reader until the final chapters. Are the real monsters the school bullies, the unspoken threat from within the dysfunctional family unit, or are giants real after all?
It is this perfect pacing within the book that is the source of it’s real power, building and blending these disparate genre elements into one coherent story that I am sure will have an emotional resonance with all readers, while leaving you constantly guessing as to whether Barbara’s proclamations are indulgent fantasies or part of a mystical heritage.
Well, that, and the beautiful artwork of Niimura, who incredibly manages to capture the enchantment, elegance, goofyness, fantasy and reality of this complex piece all in glorious black and white. It really cannot be underestimated how difficult it is to manage to balance all these elements so successfully while maintaining a coherent artistic approach, but here Niimura’s work manages to enhance what is already an evocative story and give it a real life of its own, letting the emotional drama build without losing any of the humour that underpins the soul of the book. On a technical level, a couple of the panels in shadow don’t always work, but that aside, the storytelling is always natural and flowing.
Fantasy or not, this series is just magical. Perhaps it’s not for everybody – but it should be. I hope it makes it out in trade soon so that those who missed out first time round can enjoy this little gem.