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I Kill Giants

by Skombie on March 15, 2015

Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: J.M. Ken Niimura
Publisher: Image Comics

We all face giants in our day to day lives, we’ve just learned to label them with different names: anxiety, stress, depression. This book is about a geeky-yet-out-going girl growing up and struggling with her own giants. Joe Kelly has taken a risk covering a dreadful yet relatable situation in a way that might be considered light hearted. It pays off with Kelly and Niimura creating an all ages classic, and one of the smartest books I have in my collection.

If you were to judge this book by its cover, you’d think this is a book about a girl taking down mythical creatures with a massive magical hammer. You’d think this was an action book. Instead it’s a Man of Action Studios book, meaning you’ll find more than just a fun time here. You’ll find something deeper, and depending how perceptive you are or how drunk you might be, you’ll find something deeper still.

I Kill Giants follows the story of Barbara Thorson, a teenager with a troubled home life who turns to escapism in the form of the game of Dungeons and Dragons. She finds herself half living in a world of fairies and giants. Having no friends and a poor attitude she’s struggling to survive the worst time of any geek’s life: school. It doesn’t help that the school bully has her eyes set on Barbara, and Barbara won’t go down without a fight.

The book is as much about grief as it is with discovering who you are, and where you belong. It has a bunch of metaphors, some obvious but others won’t be unlocked until rereading the story. In fact this is the first comic that I’ve read where they have metaphors more prominent through the art then the dialog. It liquefied my brain – in a good way.

This book does a great job of portraying the nerdy geeky kid, which most comic book readers are or have been - or have a “friend” who was in the same position, right guys? Don’t worry I got your back. Not only does it separate the character through her actions and dialog, but also artistically through her iconic bunny ears.

Talking about characters, I Kill Giants does a great job of fleshing them out. All of the main characters have their own lives and it feels like you’re reading into a living world. An incredibly difficult thing made to look easy by the creative team. Kudos to them.
The art style is almost in juxtaposition to the story in that it is very light hearted and could be miscataloged as Japanese manga. There are moments when this comes through heavily – like the teacher who looks like Space Dandy gone corporate. Then other times it reverts seamlessly back to the American quasi-realistic style. In both styles J.M. Ken Niimura put in a tremendous effort into character design and it shows. The only disappointing thing is that they choose not to use colour, which is a shame because it would have taken the book to another level.

The other disappointment is the lettering, at sometimes in the book you can’t really understand who is talking and you have to pull a Sherlock and Watson to figure it out. However, it’s also great in the way that it highlights the difference a great letterer can make in a book. A backwards compliment I know, but lettering is one of those things like work emails on the weekend; all too easy to ignore.

Overall this book was a great experience, and even left me bummed at the end, which weirdly enough is a sign of a good book. It’s a heavy hitter but light enough for most audiences. It finds a way to be very mature yet childish at the same time. If you’re looking for action books look elsewhere, however, if you’re looking for a great coming of age book. Then this is a solid 8 out of 10 by this reviewer’s standards.

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