Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Niimura’s I Kill Giants is one of the best and most honest depictions of a child’s reaction to loss in the comic book form. Barbara Thorson, our heroine, is precocious, prickly and daring, devoted to her career as a giant killer. Actual, mythical giants, she insists -- beasts only she is able to keep at bay with her legendary warhammer, Coveleski. After a long day of being the weird kid in fifth grade and researching giant lore (in Dungeons and Dragons manuals), she returns to a harried household living within the shadow of terminal illness. Her guidance counselor pleads with her to address her issues head on, to abandon her fantasy life -- but Barbara stands firm, maintaining that her work is essential. The truth lies somewhere in between.
Stories about of grief are tricky, and quickly made maudlin when a child enters the mix. But Barbara is real child, reacting the way real children do to trauma -- and Kelly isn’t afraid to err on the side of brattiness. She is hopeful, steely, caustic and lonely, and because of it, the story shines.
With the deluxe fifth anniversary edition of I Kill Giants on sale this week, ComicsAlliance spoke with writer Joe Kelly about escapism, loss, diverging from his superhero and adventure writing, and of course Dungeons & Dragons.