Two evenings ago, hubby and I stopped by the comic book store to pick up the new #1 issues of DC comics from his newly added “box”. A surprise was waiting for me when I arrived. Craig Thompson’s Habibi is out! I couldn’t believe it. I read his last major release, Blankets many years ago. I’ve gotten some glimpse of Habibi from his blog off and on but I haven’t pay too much attention to it. Once I saw this ginormous novel with a beautiful cover design, I got to have it. $35 for a graphic novel might seem like a lot but this is a piece of art that is worth way more than that. Luckily, I was able to take advantage of a 10% discount through my hubby’s “box”. Woot!
There are plenty of detailed reviews for this beauty already (The Guardian, Comics Bulletin, National Post, Patheos). The best one is the illustrated review from the Comic Riffs blog of the Washington Post. Click here for a slideshow of the illustrations.
This is more than a masterpiece. It reminds me of some of the works of Osamu Tezuka, such as Buddha (for the similarities in exploring mythical stories in religion), MW, and Ode to Kirihito (for the darkness of these stories and exposing the ugliest sides of society and humanity). As a huge Tezuka fan, I must admit Habibi is a few levels above Tezuka’s unique ability of storytelling and artistic expression. Many pages of Habibi could be framed as a standalone piece of art. This is one book that would trump all ebook readers. Holding a physical volume of all 600+ pages with the amazing stamped gold foil covers and spine is the only way to read it. Turning the pages with bare hands feels so wrong when every page is covered with so much hand-drawn details. All I can sum up the experience after reading it through in two evenings is one word, brilliant! It sets a new standard for literature and graphic novels in all categories.
As for the story itself, I must warn you it’s quite sad. When I heard Nirvana’s unplugged version of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” on my iPod this morning, I thought it should be the theme song of Habibi. Kurt Cobain’s scream of the final verse felt like a call out to the main character Dodola. This book would tear you apart, lift you off your feet and drop you back to earth. It’s that good.