I Kill Giants

Created by: Joe Kelly

ISBN: 1607060922 (Amazon)

Pages: 184

I Kill Giants

It’s good to pick a book with vaulted expectations, set the book down finished an hour and a half later, and have those expectations met. In I Kill Giants’ earliest chapters, I was not at all sure this would be the case. The pace felt abrupt and the characterizations suffered from something a little too adjacent to verisimilitude. The world Kelly circumnavigates seemed well-worn and overly familiar as it hadn’t been long since I had the pleasure of reading Nate Powell’s Swallow Me Whole. Still, by book’s end, all my concerns had been well-enough answered by Kelly and Niimura’s wonderful story-telling.

I Kill Giants exploits expectations in order to tell a story that, while common, is made special by its telling. The creative team breathes a crispness into Barbara Thorson’s imaginative life that many such tales lack—and those stories, in their lack, are built of shallow caricatures that never come to life for the reader. Traveling with Barbara through the travails of her fifth grader’s existence, we are given a unique vantage into the lives and motivations of much of her supporting cast. There are still clichés that never entirely extricate themselves from the crushing weight of their familiarity (for instance the story’s bully, Taylor, is just like every other storybook bully you’ve ever encountered in bad literature), but for the most part Kelly’s script is a relief.

Accordingly, Niimura’s visual work impresses when one considers just how easy it would have been to really screw up the story by producing the wrong kind of art. When Niimura draws giants, they are impressive. When Niimura draws Barbara the giant slayer, she is awkwardly confident. When Niimura draws the intersection of fantasy and reality, we find ourselves either charmed or chilled according to Niimura’s direction. The only curiosity that took me out of the story and forced me to wonder at his visual choices was his depiction of Taylor the Bully; despite the character’s solidly established age (she’s a fifth grader), Niimura draws her as being well-enough into puberty that she’s granted heftily developed breasts. While it’s not outside the realm of possibility for such a girl to exist (apparently puberty is hitting girls earlier and earlier), it’s far enough outside the norm that it may remove readers (such as myself) from their involvement in the story for a moment.

Taylor the Busty Bully

In any case, I Kill Giants is the story of Barbara Thorson. Who kills giants. Or so she tells just about everyone.

Barbara is, sigh, precocious and outspoken. She’s a bit geek (loves D&D and baseball history) and has a difficult homelife. Her interaction with teachers (and school psychologist as a result of her interaction with teachers) doesn’t cry out for emulation. She seems to almost purposely make enemies with those around her. And yet, despite the difficulties she presents for herself (and for the reader who wants to sympathize), she cuts figure as an able protagonist. She’s far from perfect and—for this story at least—we prefer her for it.

Amidst portents of the arrival of a grave doom, the heralding of a coming giant, Barbara has to negotiate a society with which she shares no interest. Against her wishes, the society around her makes many overtures of peace and goodwill. Some make ground while others break it. And all the while, the unseen world becomes increasingly active as the prophesied doom grows ever nearer. In the end, it’s in Barbara’s interactions with both worlds and their inevitable clash that I Kill Giants’ story takes shape.

And it was wonderful to take in.

As a final note, it is a happy circumstance that I Kill Giants is as short as it is—for the book certainly bears a second reading. Many things previously obscured are unveiled only with knowledge gained in the book’s climax.


Good Ok Bad features reviews of comics, graphic novels, manga, et cetera using a rare and auspicious three-star rating system. Point systems are notoriously fiddly, so here it's been pared down to three simple possibilities:

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I am Seth T. Hahne and these are my reviews.

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