I Kill Giants

I Kill Giants/ writer: Joe Kelly/ art: JM Ken Niimura/ 2009

Another year come and gone and another birthday. I guess it’s time to reflect…

Getting older and wiser, I start to notice more things. Obstacles and struggles in life in general can become a little more daunting. Work can suck if you have a job, looking for work can suck if don’t have one, school can drag-on, love life at a stand still, finances swirling in the toilet, health going wrong, etc… Add to that the seemingly unending injustices and human rights violations out there and things can start to get really bleak. But that’s why we have inspirations, things that keep us going, keep us moving forward.

On the day of my birth, I present to you one of my many inspirations. In my opinion, one of the best, if not THE best graphic novel/ trade paperback of 2009. A book that everyone should read. Even though there really is no social commentary or political context involved in this book, it is one of the most poignant, genuine, and touching stories I have seen in a graphic novel. And its message and theme is as “in your face” and obvious as it seems, a metaphor waiting to happen…


The Review

I Kill Giants is the story of fifth grader Barbara Thorson, a skilled dungeon & dragons player and an outcast at her school for her supposed tall tales of her life of killing giants. As a reader, it is almost assumed from the beginning that Barbara’s “giants” are a metaphor for all her struggles in life: school, bullies, authority figures, etc. Even though in a sense that is all true, the actual conclusion and subtext for “giants” or in the extreme case at the end, “titans”, is both unsuspected and touching.

Joe Kelly pens a story that not only gives depth to Barbara’s character and the “real” world around her, but also constructs Barbara’s world as an enchanting and majestic realm filled with mythical creatures and these gargantuan “giants” and “titans.” Yes, the story may seem silly and contrived as a metaphor, but Joe Kelly deals with this by writing Barbara’s story as earnest and heartfelt, and never silly and absurd. Add to that JM Ken Niimura’s art style, a mix of manga, stand-out designs, and exaggerated angles and Joe Kelly’s story is filled with images that progress smoothly from panel to panel. When action is called for, the art has that energy that beams out, and when there is a poignant scene, Niimura’s art has a poignant simplicity to it.

It is a testament to both Joe Kelly’s writing and JM Ken Niimura’s artwork that the story arc of Barbara seems genuine, sincere, and honest. In fact, halfway through the story I actually thought that maybe Barbara really did have a magical hammer in her heart-shaped purse that would give her the ability to bring down giants. Barbara’s world filled with “giants” and great emotion seemed that authentic! On second thought, it WAS all real. Just because all the creatures were symbolic does not mean that any of the emotion and struggles that Barbara went through were not actually there. Those were entirely tangible feelings and struggles. And many times, these are things that are hard to convey in the comic book medium.

We all go through tough times in life. There are many “giants” that we deal with on a daily basis. Reflecting on my day of birth and looking forward seeing all the struggles, problems, and tough choices that lie in my path, I think of Barbara and this book… and I think…


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