Thursday, September 9, 2010

Review: Amulet Volumes 1 - 3 by Kazu Kibuishi

Comics aren't just for adults anymore.
I don't tend to review a lot of comic books around here, but when stuff comes along, whether a movie, book, or comic book that shines bright with its gaming potential, I find myself compelled to pass it along and let other people hear about it.

Amulet is a children's comic by Kazu Kibuishi. I use the phrase "children's comic" lightly here as it's definitely mature and deep enough for me, a 25 year old man, to really enjoy it. Anyway, it's a comic centered around a family of two children and their mother who, after moving into their grandfather's house somehow found their way into a Narnia-like land called Alledia. Keep Reading to find out how awesome combining anthropomorphic animals and giant monster fighting can really be!

Alledia is awesome. I may have been a little misleading with the Narnia comment. The only similarities it really shares with C.S. Lewis' fantasy world is the fact that it's a hidden world and animals talk in it (ok, and have some pretty awesome sword-fighting moves). Alledia is a crazy amalgamation of lots of really cool fantasy and sci-fi ideas. Before I get into too much detail trying to describe the world I want to make sure one thing is clear - they all work together. Everything seems like it should be too stark and different, but it all clicks. That, combined with the relationships that form the center of the story, is was makes Amulet click. Here's some stuff you'll find in Amulet:
  • Tentacled Lovecraftian Horrors
  • Giant Robot or Kaiju Fighting Complete With Launching Rocket Fists
  • Evil Pale-Skinned Elves
  • Ultra-Cool Bounty Hunter Types
  • Mecha
  • Talking Robots Including One That Is A Pink Bunny
  • Talking Animals a la Disney's Robin Hood
  • Airships
  • Jedi-like Powered Individuals (powered by the titular Amulets)
  • Flying Lost Cities In The Sky
Volume 2 features extra comic bang for your buck!
Are you not entertained? Like I said, it all clicks and works to form one very original and exciting world where you feel like literally anything could happen and any new concept could be introduced. It's like the best of Disney meets modern urban fantasy and horror. As you can see there have been three volumes released so far. They're a little bit slow going with the releases, but considering they're each around 200 pages and written and drawn by one person, it's not bad at all.

Volume three was just released and has yet again blown me away. Let me offer a little more explanation on the relationships bit from above. There are really two primary family relationships that seem to run the story. The first, and the one that follows our protagonists, is the family of Emily (the star of the book), her younger brother Navin, and their mother. Emily "inherited" or found and grabbed her great-grandfather's Amulet which imbued her with awesome powers. It also pulled them into the world of Alledia and towards the dangers of the evil Elf King. Speaking of which, the other relationship driving the plot is that between the Elf King and his son, Trellis. The Elves in Alledia are cruel, pale-skinned, and just down-right evil. It's a harsh contrast between Emily's and Trellis' families and cultures, but each are given access to their own power with their Amulets.

Vo. 3 should be titled "In Which Navin Continues to be Awesome."
That, of course, is the serious stuff. There's a lot of serious stuff in Amulet, don't get me wrong, but a ton of it is just over-the-top action. Navin, the younger brother, is probably around 10 years old, but by the third book he's shown off his piloting and technical skills so much (something you'd expect of a young boy in the age of video games) that it's completely believable he's expertly piloting an airship by Volume 3. While Emily has this epic destiny of the Stone Keeper, Navin is not over-shadowed at all, and I kind of love that about the book.

And let's not forget Leon Redbeard. I have a strong skepticism of talking animals, but it's really not fair nor is it earned. I love Mouse Guard afterall, and those mice speak like Olde English Professors. The Resistance, basically the good guys of Alledia who fight the Evil Elf King, is largely populated by people are have been cursed and slowly turned into more animal-like people. Leon Redbeard, the fox pictured on the covers above, is my favorite of these animal folk. I think a lot of it comes from the fact that Robin Hood is one of my favorite Disney movies, but enough about me! Leon acts as a sort of Amulet guru and personal bodyguard to Emily, and he is one mean dude when you pick a fight with him!

Why yes, those are walking houses.
Ultimately Amulet offers a lot of great story for a very small price. The artwork (seen left here) is just jaw-dropping, and the colors are insanely vivid. Everyone once in a while you'll come across a two-page spread like here and just want to take a couple of extra seconds to soak it all in.

I can recommend Amulet for anyone who likes fantasy stories - modern or classic. I feel like Amulet as a story is only really just beginning. The world of Alledia is huge and can incorporate pretty much any crazy and fantastical thing Kibuishi can dream of. That's one of the huge reasons I could see it being a fantastic role-playing setting. It's just so imaginative and incrorporates so many classic concepts in a new way. While it starts off a little slowly - the first half of Volume 1 takes place in our world - it sets the tone and the stakes early on and just builds from there. Give it a shot!


  1. I'm looking forward to vol. 3 lots!

  2. It is very good and really moves the story along while staying true to the core. I want this book to be released monthly - there never feels like enough story in each volume. This sounds bad, but it's only because it's always very exciting.


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