I Kill Giants

I Kill Giants Book Cover I Kill Giants
Joe Kelly, J.M. Ken Niimura (Artist)
Graphic Novel
Image Comics
September 1, 2009

Barbara Thorson, a girl battling monsters both real and imagined, kicks butt, takes names, and faces her greatest fear in this bittersweet, coming-of-age story called "Best Indy Book of 2008" by IGN.


I Kill Giants starts off as a bit of a peculiar story. Readers are dropped right in front of Barbara, a 5th grade girl who very openly says she kills giants. She is a girl with a difficult homelife that affects her personality dramatically. Throughout the story she lashes out at people around her, behaving very hostile even towards people trying to help. But her flaws are the reason the story is so interesting. We are slowly introduced into what shaped her into the person she is now. Ultimately it is not what this story is, but the way I Kill Giants is told that makes it special.

At its core, this is a coming of age story. Barbara is dealing with the problems that come with being a pre-teen and then some. She is the weird kid whose personality makes other kids not like her and adults see her as a troublemaker. Granted, to a degree she is a troublemaker. Writing about Barbara without spoilers for the story is next to impossible, but as I Kill Giants progresses she grows. Not necessarily at a steady pace as large parts of it are readers seeing explanations for her actions. Both in the sense of why she is ready to kill giants and how she plans to do so.

Being a graphic novel, the artwork is a large part of what makes this story work. The drawings are not so cartoony that it becomes hard to take the story seriously. At the same time, it does not hit the epitome of sharp and serious either. The art is soft enough that it does not feel 100% real, which is in line with how Barbara does not fit in with everyone’s expectations of her. And despite having soft edges that are a bit cartoony, the lighting makes some of the scenes very dark. Dark in both a literal and figurative sense, which again fits Barbara’s character.

Ultimately this story reminded me a lot of A Monster Calls. Although, I Kill Giants did come out before the A Monster Calls book and I have not seen the movie adaption of this story at the time of this writing. Despite the premises being so similar, the stories are very different. Part of it is the main characters different personalities and another part is their different situations. Many of the little details in their lives are different as are their responses to their duress. Giant monsters are still involved in both stories and both hold powerful, similar messages but their intricacies and dynamics hold some major differences. Enough that both stories stand out as great despite any happenstance similarities.

July 22, 2018

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