Amulet, by Kazu Kibuishi

After reading Bone by Jeff Smith I am often asked ‘what’s next?’     These next few posts are reviews of a few All-ages comics that join the canon of  stellar works I’d recommend to anybody.  Some are not new, but maybe new to you:

Amulet, by Kazu Kibuishi

In his ‘Hero with a Thousand Faces’ Joseph Campbell postulated that the Hero of  classical mythology must lose his parents early in life.  Perhaps the reason tall heroes have dead parents is that it opens up the boundaries of possibilities and exposes the youth to danger.  Perhaps the hero myth is simply the coming of age we all undergo.

In any case Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet hits every note of the classic hero’s journey.  Within the first ten pages he has offed one primary caregiver, as the father drives off a cliff in a car accident.  Attempting to leave their old life behind, Mom moves the two kids to an eerie home in the woods, left to her by dead grandpa Silas.   Daughter Emily finds a luminous necklace (the eponymous Amulet) in the library then shortly thereafter the two kids lose their second parent as Mom is snatched by a fleshy squid-spider.

A rescue chase ensues as the two chase after mom and her abducting beast into a classic descent to the underworld, complete with all the archetypes:  magic items, animal helpers, wise old sage dispensing wisdom, and so on.  Yet for all the dusty tropes, all feels fresh and vibrant and true.

Kazu developed his artistic chops in the luminous and wistfully surreal webcomic ‘Copper’, literally painting with light direct to your screen.  Here works with the same palette,  focusing his imagination to envision plausible reality in the ecosystems of the underrealms.  Soaring mushroom umbrellas, steep hillsides of the twilight realms, misty lakes.   When I project the images onscreen with the document camera the kids in the library hunch and huddle as though they were themselves caught in the underground cave.

The story bounds forward with desperate urgency.  Two kids must rescue their mother, there is no time for calm reflection.  Cinematic motion and animated character action keeps pace with the plot, ’til at the final page the reader is left with a worried anticipation of the next volume.

Subsequent volumes were written with deadlines in mind, and some small edge of  genius is lost as Kazu Kibuishi delegated sundry artistic duties to colleagues.  Still a good story, lovely images, clever imagineering, even if you haven’t quite the same sense of  a personal work of art.  Worth reading.  But the first volume, whew, as an artist one has to envy his talent, dedication, attention to detail and craftsmanship.  And as a reader you just have to hold on tight and enjoy the ride.


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