Story by Joe Kelly
Art by Ken Niimura
Publisher: Image Comics (2008)
Length: 1 Volume (6 Chapters)
I find it very rare to switch so frequently between liking and disliking a piece. When art, context and morality are taken into consideration, most things strike me as somewhat positive experiences. Yet, Ken Niimura and Joe Kelly’s surreal, allegorical comic was a mixed bag, one which I evaluated and re-evaluated constantly in order to understand my feelings towards it. A slow start and lack of investment led to an unenjoyable beginning. However, when the unique art style settles with you, it extracts as much substance as it can from the more mundane elements of this piece, leading to an intriguing read. A simple, yet important moral was implanted in the centre of this story, but any empowerment to be gained, unfortunately, is often lost within a jarring and frustrating (for the wrong reasons) protagonist.
Our story centres around the world of Barbara Thorson, a young school girl wrapped up in her own spectacular fantasies. She often finds it hard to differentiate between reality and the contents of her mind, and is constantly referencing her ability to kill giants, which is often met with ridicule. Slowly, the reader begins to struggle separating fantasy from reality, as the true giants begin to emerge, some we are all too familiar with. Many readers will find themselves frustrated with Barbara. She must deal with unimaginable hardships, something I would not wish on anybody, but one’s relationship with her will be based on how much of her actions they can justify. I thought her raw, and often unnecessarily forceful behaviour was a great emulation of how one too immature to deal with adult issues would react.
My gripe with Barbara, however, is even more frustrating. The language used by the character is abysmal. It’s not lazily written, but the elitist, egocentric tone is an all too familiar dialogue, one many creators in western comics attempt to avoid. To sum up this issue in one quote from this piece, it would be “I’m not like most girls, most girls are stupid.” In another scene, she implies that her musical tastes are superior to her friends because she listens to Johnny Cash. I understand how having a smartass character adds to her confident persona, providing a striking contrast when her vulnerabilities are exposed, but the cringey comic book dialogue sounds more like someone speaking through Barbara than the character herself, and ultimately hindered her characterisation.
The marriage between Eastern and Western art styles used in this comic was a fresh take on a sometimes uninspired storyline. I especially liked the choice to use black and white colouring, which only strengthened the dichotomy between the real world and Barbara’s. At first, the world seems black and white, with the contents of Barbara’s world only contained within her imagination. However, when the reader finally see her fantasy bleed into reality, it’s a horrifying experience. We begin to question whether this comic is a fantasy series about slaying giants, or if these creatures inhabit other aspects of consciousness. It did partly justify the slow start, though the art cannot extricate other stock story elements that should only serve as foundations to build off of. The high school elements, in particular the bullies, were complete caricatures of the character archetype, only with a new coat of paint. There’s nothing wrong with under developing aspects of a story with no immediate purpose, but for a setting that provides so many characters and scenarios, it would have been nice to have something compelling to remember it by.
The moral presented within this comic, that we all have giants to face, was a bittersweet realisation implanted in a somewhat enjoyable story. An inconsistent protagonist and consistently mundane setting made the great elements of I Kill Giants often overshadowed. The increasingly developed, and often fantastical artistry tried to conceal these weaknesses, but I was never fully captivated.
Art – 9
Story – 6
Wring – 6
Overall – 6.5/10