Amulet by Kazu Kubuishi

AMULET by Kazu KubuishiMy first exposure to Kazu Kubuishi was through his website for monthly installments of his comic Copper — single-page comics that follow a boy and his dog along various life themes. His insights on art, comics and entertainment kept me coming back, and I anticipated the release of his first full-length novel, Daisy Kutter. He was also the driving force behind the Flight novels, which showcase the exceptional talent of a wide variety of writers and artists under the theme of , you guessed it, “Flight”.

Kubuishi’s recent blogs have highlighted his recent involvement in Flight 4, the youth-aimed Flight Explorer, and his latest graphic work, Amulet. It’s been a unique experience following him as he created this latest novel — through tables stacked with thumbnails, the challenges of story development (and redevelopment), deadlines, etc. I was able to secure a copy of the first print run before Christmas (because I’m that awesome, yo) and Josh was tickled pink when he unwrapped it December 25.

…but he didn’t read it fast enough, so I got to it first. Really, this was my plan all along since I boosted his graphic library by at least ten, and he cannot humanly read them ALL at the same time. So: I win.

The story begins with Emily, Navin and their mother relocating 2 years after the tragic loss of the children’s father. Noises draw them into the basement on the first night in the previously abandoned family home, and their mother is captured by a monster and carried away. Emily and Navin pursue it down a mysterious stairway that disappears behind them and leads to much more than a simple sub-basement.

The fantasy world grows from there, introducing a mysterious voice that guides Emily in using a strange and powerful amulet that she discovered in their great-grandfather Silas’s study. Beyond the blob of tentacles that kidnapped their mother, there’s also a crash course in creatures that announce you’re not in Kansas any more, such as parachute mushrooms, dangerous conebeak birds, robots and the terrifying gauntlet. There’s also a creepy dude that follows them around, which you just know is going to end badly.

The art is Amazing. Yes, with a capital A. Kubuishi is more than competent at showing action and emotion, and his choices on what to frame and how to frame it are excellent. The shots and pacing feel like you’re watching a movie. The linework is relatively simple, if very well executed, but the color and texture is what makes it fan-freaking-tastic. There’s a gritty texture to many of the environments and scenes that raises the bar to a new level; layered colors pile on top of one another and particle-like specks add a level of realism that boost it out of cartoony. I was originally worried about the character design, since the main two we follow through this first book are kind of generic looking, but the color really helps make them unique.

The end left me a little dissatisfied, since I wanted to know more and it wasn’t quite in a cliff-hanger-thirsty-for-more way. I’m okay with that, however, because there’s a lot that the two Earth children also didn’t understand about what just happened, where they’re going, or why. I would have liked to see a little more exploration of the story/surroundings, but I understand it’s only Book One and introducing a fantasy world does take a lot of time — you have to establish the environment and ground rules from square one. Besides… it was beautiful. All in all, it was well worth the read and I heartily anticipate the next volume. Check it out!

A disclaimer: Two of my current favorite graphic novels are Craig Thompson’s Blankets and Jeff Smith’s Bone, both of which are very large (600 and 1,300 pages, respectfully)… so my slight dissatisfaction with the end of Amulet could have nothing to do with the story and more with me being accustomed to having it all spread before me in a big, fat, satisfy-me-now brick of an epic. If Kubuishi’s past work is any indication, I’m sure I will continue to devour the entirety of the series happily and hungrily; I’ll just have to do it smaller, yummy bits.

…I understand that’s better for your metabolism anyhow.

Tags: , , ,