Go ahead and put I Kill Giants on hold. It’s fine, I’ll wait.
Okay, you’re back.
On career day, Barbara Thorson proudly announces to her fifth grade class that she kills giants. Barbara plays Dungeons & Dragons and she takes the rule books which govern the game and applies them to her life. She kills giants, yes, but she also talks to fairies and keeps a magical warhammer named Coveleski hidden in her pocketbook.
Barbara lives in a fantasy world, but it’s one so real that it pulls the reader in. It also keeps others at bay. Barbara is a target for bullies and spends more time in the principal’s office than class. Mrs. Molle, the school psychologist, tries to reach her, and new girl Sophia wants to be her friend, but Barbara has seen the portents and knows what’s coming.
I Kill Giants is the best graphic novel I’ve read this year and it’s certainly the most emotionally affecting one. The story it tells can only exist with the combination Joe Kelly’s words and JM Ken Niimura’s art, making it a prime example of what comics can accomplish.
On the other side of the bridge is Snowtown, a blighted urban area whose superstitious residents mark their territory with the Snowtown tag: “You put it up, you belong to Snowtown. If Snowtown knows who you are, it won’t come and get you.”
And who comes to get you? Most notable among the cast of villainous characters is a Richard Nixon masked nun seen buying a gun and handing out a knife. But Tricky Dick isn’t responsible for filling the Coroner’s Lair. Causes of death range from alcohol poisoning to attacks by packs of feral dogs. “I could learn to hate this town,” says Detective Richard Fell.
Transferred to Snowtown’s police force, Fell is one of three and a half detectives assigned to cover the entire city. Reading like a police procedural set in Silent Hill, Fell follows the detective’s cases – shocking crimes brutally resolved. But what sets this apart from other grim and gritty graphic novels is the fact Fell cares, “This is where I live now. None of you are nothing to me.”
Studying overseas, Anna Romano witnesses the brutal murder of her best friend Kit. Anna travels to Florida for the funeral, but upon returning to the cemetery at night she sees Kit walking through the graveyard. Kit vanishes into the surrounding swamp leading Anna to exhume the coffin to determine if her friend is truly dead.
Heathentown is a solid horror title amplified by the fact that it’s set in our backyard. Bechko invokes the discomfort of being an outsider in a small town while blending in Florida’s history and legends creating something which reads like a new genre: FL-horror, maybe?
The horror is realized by Hardman’s artwork. It feels like something is lurking in every panel, especially when the story moves to the Everglades. There the swamp is stifling and every shadow takes on a sinister shape.