Most people don’t know what they want to be when they grow up until they are well into their college years (hell I am just about to graduate with little to no idea what I really want to do), but it seems like middle-schooler Barbra Thorson knows what she wants to do already; to hunt and kill giants.
Written by Joe Kelly and art by Jim Ken Niimura, “I Kill Giants” tells the story of a young girl with what many would call an overactive imagination, but Barbra takes it one step further. The troubled youth takes the lore of giants, as well as the ever popular game of Dungeons and Dragons, very seriously. She sees it not as a game, but a way of life, yet the more we see her delve into the fantasy rich world, the more we see that things are not as they seem. Her interests make her a social pariah at school, even among the geeks and dweebs, and she is less than friendly or social when it comes to anything outside the realm of fantasy.
Life at home is not well for Barbra either, complete with a broken home and a bed ridden mother, Barbra is pushed deeper and deeper into her “work”. As if things were not bad enough for Barbra they get knocked up a notch when the worst thing imaginable happens; a giant is coming, and only Barbra can possibly stop it.
Talk about a graphic novel that hits home for me. I don’t play D&D, but know all too well about being an outcast’s outcast. While this character’s main hobby includes D&D the main themes and ideas go beyond the scope of the game. The deeper issues with coping with tragedy and escapism though fantasy are ones that go right for the gut. While I admit that Barbra seems unrealistically harsh and witty for her age, her jaded and cynical personality is something I see far too often in schools of all levels. It’s an adaptation than a behavior. You get shit on most of your life, and you’re only left with two options; be on the attack and shut out everyone, or take it all in and learn to cope with the abuse.
I wouldn’t dare spoil the ending for you people because the ending puts a lot of the fantasy elements of the story into question, but I can tell you that this graphic novel is well worth your time. The art might not be the best for some people, but I can’t imagine the style being anything else.
Let’s set the clock back a bit. The year is 1975 and you are attending Revere High School in Media Pennsylvania. Life is normal enough in the late seventies and things are what they should be. You have a good circle of friends who often sit together at lunch and tell jokes. Then, as if by some strange cosmic turn of events you let a new kid enter yours circle. He’s not new by any means, in fact you remember him back in middle school. This new kid is quiet, reserved, and has a charming talent of imitating a person with cerebral palsy in order to give you and your friends a laugh. Who is this new kid you and your friends have become acquainted with? Why none other than Jeffery Dahmer; arguably the most famous serial killer in American History. This was a very real scenario for the author of this graphic novel, Derf Backderf, author of Punk Rock and Trailer Parks. Back in high school, Derf and his friends not only knew Jeff Dahmer before he became the monster we all know today, but was a high school friend.
The graphic novel took twenty years to make, having many adaptations and rewrites. Derf began with an eight page story back in 1991 when Dahmer’s crimes were made public. Since then he has reworked it into what he can say with utmost certainty, a complete story. What amazes me about this story is that it humanizes Jeffery Dahmer, but not to a point where we sympathize with him; instead we are only left with pity. Pity and regret more like it. Reading this I only wanted some sort of attempt to bring Dahmer out of his darkness, but I knew that there would be no such thing.
When I hear about serial killers it is only about what they did, or what lead up to what it. “My Friend Dahmer,” does look at what lead to his grisly murders, but though a classmate who, let’s be honest, was the closest friend Dahmer probably had. Now while some might dismiss this and say that this is the author’s one claim to fame, to that I say “Ummm…no”. Not only was this story very complex and worthwhile, but this is also a story worth telling. One could argue that this is a primary source about Dahmer, but I won’t go that far.