Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Graphic Novel: I Kill Giants

If you've never read a graphic novel, then I Kill Giants is an excellent place to start.

Despite the title, I Kill Giants has
a modern day setting.
I Kill Giants tells the story of Barbara Thorson, a young girl who talks about killing giants and generally behaves quite weird at school and as a result gets labelled a freak by one of her less than charitable peers in particular.  As the story develops you eventually learn the reason behind Barbara’s strange behaviour and you also can’t help but admire her bravery and courage.

Ken Niimura, the artist on I Kill Giants, has gone for a cool distinctive look rather than outright realism, and I have to admit it took me a few pages to get used to the style of art, but once I did I realised that it fitted with the story very well.  Despite its characterised style, or perhaps because of it, Ken manages to squeeze a massive amount of emotion and personality into some of the frames.

This is a story which works especially well as a graphic novel, but I suspect it would also translate well to other entertainment forms and I would love to see this made into a movie.  In some ways most of the story would probably work best as a low budget indie picture rather than as a big budget Hollywood movie, as it is primarily the story which makes it as powerful as it is (even Ken Niimura’s philosophy is that the art is there primarily to enhance the story).

Having said that there are a few of the scenes (those involving giants in particular) which would benefit from CGI effects so there are also arguments that maybe a bigger studio would be a more fitting match.  But whether or not any movie executives ever decide that I Kill Giants is worthy of conversion to the big screen, it undoubtedly makes a brilliant graphic novel.

Although right from the beginning I Kill Giants gets you emotionally involved, it isn’t really until later on in the story that Joe Kelly (the writer) really cranks up the dial on the emotion-o-meter.  I won’t go into detail, but there’s a very moving finale to the book and one which leaves a lasting impression.

I also enjoyed the ‘behind the scenes’ pages at the back of the book which provided a bit of background into aspects such as the creation of Barbara’s physical appearance and why they eventually decided to go with a more unrealistic loosely manga-inspired look for the book rather than for photo-realism.  Ken also explains his philosophy for drawing comics and how it should involve creating the right mood for the story rather than drawing perfect figures and after reading I Kill Giants, I would emphatically agree.  In addition, Ken talks about how he believes it’s important for an artist to create a graphic identity that’s particular to the story and with I Kill Giants he has succeeded in this aim exceptionally well.

In the closing notes, Joe Kelly remarks, “I am fiercely proud of this book, and honoured that Ken brought it to life with such care and affection.”  It was no surprise at all to read this as I can totally understand Joe’s pride.  There was something about this book right from the start which stimulated my interest, and some of the later stages and the closing scenes in particular left a very strong positive impression on me as a reader.

If you have never read a graphic novel before then I Kill Giants is an excellent place to start.  If like me you are initially slightly put off by the unconventional art style, keep reading and by the end you’ll be won over.  As I’ve probably made very clear by now, I Kill Giants is a book I would highly recommend and encourage others to read.  It might not perhaps be a book suited to fans of more typical standard super-hero fare, but anyone looking for a memorable personal tale of the hurt and comfort that the lessons of life can bring, would be well advised to give this a look.

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Find more graphic novel recommendations at the following link:
Recommended Graphic Novels

Please note, all promotional images used on this blog remain the copyright of the respective artists/publishers and are used in accordance with 'Fair Use' legislation for review purposes.

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