Comics: Giants Beware

A seven-year-old girl loaned me Giants Beware, and if I were a seven-year-old girl, I’d have to think that book was pretty freakin’ awesome.  As an adult, I can see its considerable charm, but the slick adherence to sitcom humor, from the self-conscious character quirks to the self-conscious dialogue, makes it harder to fall magically into the story.

The book, written by Jorge Aguirre and drawn by Rafael Rosado, is an impressive object.  Published by McMillan, it’s larger than standard comic-book or manga size, and is a thick 200 pages.  And there’s a lot of story packed into it.  Rosado is a storyboard artist, but he avoids the pitfall that writer-artists from the animation world always suffer–stretching every moment of the story into infinity.  Instead, it’s tightly paced, with a lot of incidents packed into the character’s short journey.

Set in a vague medieval village, it’s the tale of three children well under 10 years old.  Mainly we’re concerned with Claudette, a loud, brash heroine in the making who carries a wooden sword, bosses her friends around, and wants to march off to glory by slaying a giant said to live in the distant mountains.  She manages to recruit her best friend, a goofy-looking rich girl who dreams only of being a princess, and her kid brother, a timid boy whose unmanly, unmedieval goal is to be a fine french chef.

At Claudette’s urging, our officially eccentric trio set out to face giants and whatever lies between them and the giants (of which there’s a lot), while various familiar, stock adults pursue them, hoping to intercept the kids before they get themselves killed.

The sheer craft that Aguirre and Rosado bring–especially Rosado’s perfectly charming art–begs the reader to hold them to a very high standard, and since they went and got Jeff Smith to give them a supportive cover blurb, let’s start there.  While Smith is the superior cartoonist (to nearly everyone working in comics today not named Hernandez), Rosado is a strong enough artist to not suffer too much by comparison.  And Aguirre is just about as polished a writer as Smith.  But where Smith’s masterful Bone, and more recent RASL, feel intimate and emotional and visceral, this book never stops feeling like light entertainment.  And considering that it’s primary audience is kids, that’s perfect.  This book will never be as captivating as Bone, which has charmed (and spawned) a generation of readers abandoned by the sadly “matured” superhero publishers, but I cannot imagine any comic-reading kid under 12 not enjoying it.  Nor do I think any reasonable adult could fail to find plenty of easy, if familiar, charm in its pages.