Friday, April 13, 2012

Comic Review: Amulet (volumes 1-4)

A few years back when I was working in the local library I found the first volume in this series, read it, and didn't think much of it. Looking at the publication dates I don't think there were any other volumes out at the time to change my mind but over the years I've seen plenty of praise for the series, the kind of exhuberent praise that makes me squirm in my seat and go "how could something I found so average be so extraordinary to others, did it really improve later on or such?" Differences in taste could easily account for that difference but I was really puzzled and, after finding all four books staring at me in the local library (book five should come out this fall, I'm thinking the series won't be much longer than six volumes) I decided to give it a second go and try to figure out what all the buzz was about.

Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi (volumes one through four)

Summary: After a tragedy rocks their family, Emily along with her brother Navin and mother move to the old family home in the countryside to start a new chapter in their lives. They weren't expecting this new chapter to be so adventurous however as Emily inherits her Silas' amulet which gives her both great powers and unexpected responsibilities in the world of Alledia where they quickly become embroiled in an old war with enemies lurking everywhere.

The Good: While I still don't get quite all the hype I see for these books they are certainly well-written with an interesting plot. While Emily and her family are vital to trying to save Alledia she acts more as a catalyst than a promised savior which I like, it makes it much easier to take her role in all of this seriously. I also like how her brother Navin has also had sometime in the spotlight, initally I was worried he would be overshadowed because Amulet truly is Emily's story but his development (as well as that of a number of side characters) has been well placed and adds to the story. 

The Bad: It's a bit of an odd complaint but even after four books I still feel like we haven't gotten to know and understand Emily all that well, I feel like Navin has gotten much more character development (possibly because Navin has more downtime and Emily has been so busy there's no time for quiet, character establishing scenes). I do dislike how their mother is written however, it is hard to write capable adult characters in children's literature but the mother here just comes off as a bit too flat, someone to spout advice that doesn't even end up working in the end. Also a bit frustrated at the villain introduced in the fourth volume, everything was paced so quickly I had to re-read the story to figure out what happened and I didn't see a motivation or a reason for another villain at all. Despite all of that I am curious to see what happens next in the story, not so curious as to actively seek it out but rather enough that if I come across it at the library at some point I'll check it out. 

The Art: The comics are in full art and, while the art isn't going to blow your socks off it has progressed nicely and gets better and better with each book. The settings look nice and distinct, the pages flow well and all the characters look different from each other. The art hasn't blown me away but it's not underwhelming either so I have no complaints with it.

It's mostly for superficial reasons but the early parts of this story still remind me strongly of The Spiderwick Chronicles which is also probably because they're both middle grade, also probably why this story didn't grip me as much. I'd easily recommend these books (both series) to my younger step-sister but probably not to my college aged comic reading friends.