Book of the Month

I Kill Giants

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Avg Rating: 4.9
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 0.5%
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Size: pages
Price: 15.99

Every so often, a book comes along that affects people. With indie comics, the first couple issues you hear some rumbling about, but the concept is usually off the beaten patch, and readers are reticent to give it a try. But by the time the final issues come out, you start hearing raves from all around. Then the trade wait begins. In the case of I Kill Giants, the last issue was Ron’s Pick of the Week back in July. I’d heard of the book before that, and was mildly intrigued, but the low but steady chorus of people being affected by the book started up and a person who really appreciates a great comic book couldn’t help but take notice. It started up again a couple of weeks ago when the trade paperback was finally released. I started hearing testimonials again about readers being deeply affected by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura’s tale of a little girl out to kill giants. That made it pretty easy to select the perfect Book of the Month for June.

The basic story of I Kill Giants isn’t really all that new, but what is remarkable is the way in which it is told. Barbara Thorson is a fifth grade girl who wears rabbit ears, plays role-playing games, and truly believes that she is a skilled giant killer. Needless to say, she doesn’t fit in so well with the other kids. Vicious bullies, a rocky and mysterious home life, and a new friend are all part for the course as far as the typical elements of this story goes, but after that framework is understood, the story becomes something greater.

For the most part, we’re told this story mostly from the point of view of Barbara, and while we’re skeptical that there are really giants, she’s fairly certain, and you’re inclined to go along with her, since it is a comic book after all. The glimpses of the real world, the actual one she exists are are just that, glimpses, and they’re fleeting. The reality of what’s happening at home with Barbara is only hinted at, and also just accepted, as happens with many children, whether they’re going through something or not. The one thing that’s clear about Barbara from the get go is that she is her own person, and her personality and idiosyncrasies will not be stilted by the demands of her teachers and the world in general. To Barbara, the threats are real and deadly serious. But at the same time, Kelly has baked in a vulnerability that would be in every 11 year-old regardless of their giant killing prowess. As the reader is not a part of the elementary school hierarchy, we’re not bound by the social pressure to join in ostracizing the weird kid, and as a result, we’re on Barbara’s team, even to the extent that when she is hostile even to people trying to help her, there’s a tiny part of us that thinks, “well, maybe she’s right to be like that.” When she starts a sweet friendship with the new kid Sophia, and is defensive, you think, “well maybe she’s right.” These are giants we’re talking about that. It’s this type of writing that keeps our viewpoint slightly myopic, wondering if maybe Barbara is the one who has it all right, and it’s all for a reason. It also lulls us into her world, so you really don’t know what’s coming, and you have to trust Barbara and her version of the story, no matter how strange it seems.

One of the things that’s most impressive to me about this book is that it’s all one big story, conceived as a whole from the start. Read it for a second time, and you’ll see that everything was in place from the first page. I love a story where the writer knows exactly what the story is, where he wants it to go, and how he’s going to get there. It’s pretty obvious when reading I Kill Giants that this story just sort of erupted from Joe Kelly, and I can’t explain how, but you can tell it’s important to him. It’s sincere, and I can’t tell you how that translates from the pages, but it’s there. There are real emotions in these pages, and it’s something you can’t fake.

Joe Kelly once told us that he’d written I Kill Giants a while back, and that as it was such a personal story to him, that he waited for a long time to find the right artist for the project. You hear things like that quite often, but with this book, it makes sense. Kelly could have been waiting a long time, since there are literally no other artists I can compare to the work of JM Ken Niimura. At first glance, one could call the style vaguely manga-esque, but that only scratches the surface. While there’s certainly a Japanese influence on his work, he lives and works in Spain, and the European feel of his work also shines through. There are certainly hallmarks of manga, but there’s a looseness and fluidity to the work that comes from his European background. Most of the story is comprised of the hellish scenes of a little girl who is different in school, and then, in great contrast, there are giants to be drawn, and they show such imagination and scale that it’s difficult not to be impressed by them. I think more than anything, the most effective aspect of the book is the complete meshing of writer and artist in the creation of Barbara Thorson. Between the words put in her mouth by Kelly, to the pitch perfect expressions, smirks, and grimaces rendered by Niimura, she’s a fully realized character. By extension, the same can be said of her world, giants and all.

So much of the strength of this piece is that it feels both fresh and entirely sincere. I have nothing to compare it to, and other than listing specifics that I liked about it, I am at somewhat of a loss to describe what it actually is. I’ve tried to think of ways to describe the plot that doesn’t give anything away for people reading for the first time, and I’m left with something that doesn’t sound terribly impressive. I could also explain what’s so special about this book, but in all honesty, you’re better off just experiencing it for yourself. Let the pages suck you in and take you where they will. If you do that, you might just find yourself as affected as all those people I read about breaking into tears trying to read this on public transportation. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Josh Flanagan


  1. A fine choice and a really good review. This should absolutely be on everyone’s "must read" list.

  2. Pefect pick.

  3. Perfect even.

  4. Dude!  I was going to write about this for Fantastic Fangirls this month!  Now I need to see if I have anything else to add. . . .  I suspect not!  (All of which is to say, great review!)

  5. Avoiding the bulk of the article for fear of spoiling anything, but I should be getting my copy today. I look forward to reading it and bursting into tears on the bus!

  6. I read this in issues and it was fantastic!

  7. I didn’t write any spoilers in this article.

  8. Is this an all-ages book?  Just this morning my brother sent me an email requesting suggestions for his school library and this sounds perfect.  He teaches at a grade school.  (Already on the list:  Bone, American Born Chinese, Owly, Tiny Titans, Mouseguard.)

  9. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Great review, Josh. Major props for avoiding spoilers. That’s tricky with this one.  

  10. I really need to read this

  11. @Ultimatehoratio-It has some cursing and schoolyard violence.  I would say the book would be better appreciated by kids in middleschool and higher.  Could be wrong though, since kids sometimes frighten me.

    Awesome review Sir Flanagan.  I couldn’t wait for this trade to ship and once it did I was not disappointed.  I will be passing this along to everyone I can because I strongly believe that everyone should read it.  Also, this will be one of the only instances where I plan on double-dipping once the hardcover comes out later on.

  12. Absolute I Kill Giants?

  13. @chlop – Unlikely, as this is an Image book and Absolutes are DC. I don’t know what the current trade is though. Pretty hardcover? Softcover with extras? Collection of bubblegum wrappers? I only have the issues.

  14. @Cooper-The current trade is just a standard softcover.  A few extras in the back, but not much.  It was annoucned around the same time as this that a hardcover would be released later on in the year that would have more goodness.  And Joe Kelly confirmed that he is putting more into that during a recent IGN interview.

  15. Oh, excellent! Man, I was really hoping that this would be the pick so it was a real pleasant surprise to see this posted.

    Great review Josh and you’re right, this is totally a book that has to be experienced by the reader and even attempting to discuss its greatness without getting all spoilerific is pretty much impossible.All that really needs to be said is that this is one of those very rare comics that is almost guaranteed to get you at least somewhat teary-eyed, particularly in its final chapters. I am actually somewhat surprised though that they even bothered releasing this in singles because clearly it is designed to be read straight through. 

    Anyway, I’m interested to see how you guys handle the book when you talk about it on your show: will you continue to avoid spoilers? 

  16. Excellent pick. Last week I did some very early Christmas shopping, and ordered five copies of this book to give to various friends and family. What a wonderful, heartbreaking book.

  17. This was the first book I ever picked up that I had all the issues of also.  Fantastic story.  Great pick.

  18. Can’t wait to get this trade!

  19. Incredible book.

  20. WEll since amazon didnt get this in, I havent read it yet. But i can’t wait to get it.

  21. I was one of the perhaps many that broke down.  Luckily I was at home not on mass transit.  I can relate more than I would like to Barbara and her situation.  I was a beautiful story and I’m finding it hard to describe just how much it touched me.

    I will be sharing this book with many, many people.

  22. I picked it up over the weekend and my girlfriend and I both read it and loved it.  Great review

  23. okay, thats like the third review, plus the image video show, and a joe kelly interview, all devoted to this book. iim getting it, im sold.

  24. This was glorious and beautiful and heartbreaking and just goddamn spectacular. This moved Joe Kelly to the A-List for me.

  25. I’ve had all seven issues for a while but just had the opportunity to sit down and read them all tonight. It’s an amazing comic. Great pick for book of the month.

    And the art nearly made me crap my pants. I wish I was that good.

  26. Read the trade last night.  Fantastic book, it really got to me too.

  27. double w00t i loved this series so much!!

  28. I reread this when the trade came out and I started crying in IHOP.  Yeah, I’m cool like that.

    Such an incredible book.  I’ll mention one of the things I really liked about it is that it’s about a girl but it’s not a sterotypical "girl" story.  I mean, Barbara is a girl, and she’s the protagonist and she’s totally believable.  And there are 2 or 3 references in the book to her gender but they say more about the speaker than about Barbara (like the gamer who says ‘this is why girls shouldn’t play D&D’!)  There are still relatively few ‘mainstream’ comics with female protagonists, and I appreciated that Joe Kelly took a story that didn’t ‘need’ to be about a girl and wrote it the way that he did. 

  29. This book was amazing!  I could not stop crying for the last issue and a half. This book is absoluetly amazing. everyone should read this. If you don’t feel anything for this story then you are a robot!

  30. I ran all over Oklahoma City looking for a copy of this book this weekend as I really wanted to read it on my vacation.  Finally on Sunday night, I found a copy.  So now my reading for vacation lays almost all in Josh’s hands as I picked up Too Cool to be Forgotten as well.

  31. i love this. i told everyone i know about this!! they all love it

  32. This book was amazing, thanks for the recommendation!

  33. So I caved and bought this after reading article and testiomnies after each other that praised it. The premise didn’t really pull me in. I didn’t think I was going to like the art that much.


    I am so happy I picked this up. What a perfectly beautiful, funny, and sad story. The art was incredible. I have never seen such fully realized emotion in a characters face like Barbara. I also have to admit, I had to hold back some tears even though I knew half way through where the story was going.


    Wondeful book. A true credit to the medium.

  34. Based on the review and podcast, I went and bought this.  As soon as I was done, I gave my copy to my sister and insisted she read it (she is not a comic book fan).  I plan to buy a couple of more copies as gifts.  I want this in HC!

  35. Has anyone ever seen Fooly Cooly (FLCL, Furi Curi)? This reminds me a lot of that. Very good though.

  36. Is it dickish to wish that in the motion comics version, keyboard cat is playing in the end?

  37. I really enjoy FLCL but I think I Kill Giants is 1) a lot more restrained than FLCL and 2) carries a lot more emotional weight to it.

    Not that FLCL is stupid and random just because, but I feel like Joe Kelly’s book feels a lot more personal and sincere.  Niimura’s art is always in service of the story telling where the art in FLCL seems almost to exploit the ridiculous tropes of manga.

    Nothing against either series, like I said I love FLCL.  But I love I Kill Giants worlds more.

  38. Just got my copy in the mail and have read half of it.  I’m really enjoying it and am glad I heard about it from you guys.  Just wish the binding wasn’t so flimsy.  Oh well.  Just more of an incentive to purchase the hardcover.  


    Thanks again! 

  39. Bought it, read it, cried big man tears. Definitely a unique and powerful book.

  40. A quick read that will stick with you forever.

  41. I literally just finished this for the first time… For months I’ve been trying all these books that the iFanboy guys deem as sad (Local, Essex County, etc) and while I like them, and they’re plenty sad, nothing has hit me like I Kill Giants.  It didn’t necessarily make me cry, but I teared up plenty on the [spoiler] page where Barbara places Coveleski on her mother’s casket [/end spoiler.]

    An utterly heart wrenching book from cover to cover, and I couldn’t love it more for that. 

  42. Avatar photo Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    I’m late to the party on this one too, but having just read it earlier today, I need to say that it was a great pick and a wonderful story.  Thanks for putting it on my radar.  Just like most others, I too teared up and started to get the sniffles to such a point that my wife wondered just what I was doing.

    Actually, I refused to read your review of the book before I read it, as I wanted to go into the thing completely fresh and with no preconceived notions about character or plot.  Now that I’ve finallyl read it, well written review, Josh.