The Giant Killers


Giants Beware!

I picked this one up a couple weekends ago, considered holding onto it to use for next December’s gift recommendations, then figured, heck with it, I wanted to go ahead and review it now.

I’ve been trying to keep my eye open for more fun all-ages comics, and I’d heard several friends recommending this one. It’s written by Jorge Aguirre and illustrated by Rafael Rosado, and it was released back in 2012. Our story is set in Mont Petit Pierre, a small quasi-medieval city surrounded by a fortress to keep monsters and other threats away. Our lead characters are Claudette, a young tomboy who craves battle against the legendary Baby-Feet-Eating Giant; Gaston, Claudette’s brother, a coward and remarkable pastry chef; and Marie, who aspires to become a princess; and Valiant, Claudette’s brave bulldog.

Our plotline: Everyone’s heard the stories about the giant driven away from the city years ago. Claudette is full of bravado and wants to go out and kill the giant herself. The Marquis, Marie’s father, mostly ignores her. Claudette’s father, the village blacksmith, who lost his legs and an arm in a battle against a dragon, and his assistant Zubair try to discourage her from foolish talk. Gaston only cares about staying away from danger and making delicious pastries. And Marie only cares about stuff that princesses care about.

But eventually, Claudette convinces Marie and Gaston to accompany her on her giant-killing quest. They must face danger at every turn, from a witch who wants to cook them into a potion to restore her beauty to the mad king of the river, who wants to force Marie into a marriage with his son — who is a fish. The townspeople are pursuing them, too, hoping to return them to the city where they’ll be safe. And of course, there’s a terrible giant waiting for them at the top of Giant’s Peak. Can the three children prevail against a giant?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a fantastic story, with grand adventure and derring-do, outstanding characterization, and great humor. It’s perfect for kids of all ages, and for both boys and girls.

Heck, let’s talk about the characters some more. Claudette is a rough-and-tumble little girl who specializes in goading everyone around her into action — she makes a great show of her bravery, but it doesn’t always hold up like she’d want it to. Her brother is such a richly strange kid — an avowed coward whose greatest passions are making delicious pastries and making swords. His father won’t let him learn the blacksmithing business yet, but it’s clear to everyone that Gaston doesn’t fit any stereotypes at all. Marie is every little girl who wants to be a princess — but where her friends are content to act spoiled and willowy, she is quite comfortable taking action, even if she’d prefer just ruling everyone from a throne.

Even the adults are interesting — the Marquis is a fool when it comes to leading a posse through the wilderness, but he seems a decent administrator of the village’s business — and he’s hiding something possibly dangerous, too. Claudette’s father throws a bit of a shock into us the first time we see him — we’re used to blacksmiths being big, strong men — which Augustine is — but to see him in a wheelchair is not the way we’re accustomed to imagining our blacksmiths. Not that he’s slowed down a bit — he’s the most capable adult we meet in the entire story. And Zubair, Augustine’s assistant, shows depths of wisdom and insight that few other characters possess.

What about our villains? The witch is definitely a bad guy — she captures the children and intends to sacrifice them for her potion so she can appease her own vanity. But she’s dealt with compassionately, and no one seems to perceive her as a truly vile person, particularly Augustine, who has encountered her before. The Mad Lake King is less evil, but he’s still a kidnapper and child-endangerer — and he’s still perceived as more of a misguided person than a true villain. And the giant — well, that would spoil things too much, wouldn’t it?

This is the type of story that’s going to be greatly enjoyed by kids who are around lower elementary age. The characters are well-drawn and interesting, but just a bit silly, and it’ll be incredibly easy for kids to identify with one or more of our heroes. There’s worlds of wonderful but bloodless action, but just as much time devoted to the kids thinking their way out of trouble and finding ways to empathize with others. With two of our heroes being young girls, it’s going to be a great book for girls who want to read comics full of adventure, action, and humor. And I think boys will enjoy it, too — because again, adventure, action, and humor!

It’s a great book for kids or for grownups — and especially for grownups who enjoy reading to their kids. Go pick it up.

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