Two recent graphic novels found their way to my desk, and I had to share them. While both are all-ages books, one is definitely more skewed to younger fans. Here’s a look:
“Giants Beware!” (First Second) — This is my favorite of the two, a delight from start to finish and a great book for younger readers. Artist Rafael Rosado and writer Jorge Aguirre come from the world of animation, and it shows in the way the story easily flows from once scene to the next. It’s about brave, young Claudettte, who takes it upon herself to leave her sequestered village to kill the local giant. The monster, according to local legend, likes to eat babies’ feet. Eew. She drags along princess wannabe friend Marie and her timid little brother, Gaston. But it’s not an easy journey, of course.
I love how the book bends and plays with gender stereotypes, as well as makes Claudette’s father, a blacksmith and former monster fighter, a strong, realistic character in his wheelchair. (Monster fighting was not kind to him.) It also plays with expectations throughout as each character has a chance to grow. And it’s got one of the best lines I’ve ever seen in a comic, Gaston’s “I want to be the world’s preeminent swordmaker-slash-pastry chef.” You go, Gaston!
And it’s all wonderfully and imaginatively drawn by Rosado, who’s a storyboard artist. Flesh out the story a bit, and I could easily see this becoming a great animated film, and I wouldn’t touch his style.
Aguirre leaves plenty open for a sequel or two, and I hope the wait isn’t long.
“The Dare Detectives” (Archaia) — This hardcover collects a two-large-issue miniseries by Ben Caldwell, which I missed in the store. It, too, is an all-ages book, and there’s nothing really objectionable about it, but the more intense story is definitely aimed at a slightly older reader — maybe 10 or 12 and up.
This adventure is subtitled “The Snow-Pea Plot” and follows our heroes Maria, Toby and Jojo as they face down the new criminal boss Madame Bleu, who has kidnapped their landlord, who’s also the owner of their favorite Chinese restaurant. Maria is the smart one, with an enforcement background of some sort. Toby is the sensitive muscle guy, and Jojo is … a rabbit. I’m not really sure why he’s on the team, but he has some great one-liners. (There’s some background information on the characters at the Dare Detectives website.)
Yes, this is a world where humans and anthropomorphic animals live, work and commit crimes side by side.
It’s certainly an action-packed adventure, which doesn’t leave much room in the way of character development. But Caldwell’s breezy writing style and colorful animation-style art (clearly influenced by Don Bluth) make it a fun read worth checking out.