Amulet vol. 1: The Stonekeeper
I picked this comic up largely because of my familiarity with Kazu Kibuishi's art from the "Flight" series of comic short story anthologies. Of the many incredible talents on display in "Flight," Kibuishi is one of my all-time favorites. He has a rather cartoony style, but there is a subtle gravity to his drawing that allows for things to take a turn for the dramatic without seeming out of place. I therefore was really excited to see what he would do with a book-length comic. The result is a wonderfully beautiful and fascinating story that manages to be truly for all ages, from small children on up to adults.
The story opens up with a prologue in which a father, mother, and their daughter Emily are driving along a mountain road in order to pick up Emily's younger brother, Navin. Unfortunately, their car goes over a cliff and while Emily and her mother are able to escape, her father ends up being trapped in the car and dying.
The story then flashes to three years later where the kids' mother, burdened by financial obligations, has decided to move out to an old house once owned by her grandfather, a strange puzzlemaker and inventor named Silas Charnon who mysteriously disappeared long ago. Poking around Silas' study, Emily finds a mysterious amulet that she puts on. But this is no mere piece of jewlery: the reader glimpses two mysterious creatures that appear to be watching what is going on with interest.
That night, the three are disturbed by strange sounds in the basement. Emily and Navin's mother goes to investigate, only to be captured by a strange tentacly monster. The two kids give chase and find themselves in an infinitely bizarre world, tracked by a mysterious elf-like creature and assisted by the robotic servants of Silas Charnon himself, who seems to have ended up here after he disappeared on Earth. In addition, the amulet begins talking to Emily, giving her advice and encouraging her to take certain actions, which may or may not be for her and Navin's good.
I liked this story overall. The comedy, drama, and action of the story is well-balanced, and it never is bogged down with exposition while simultaneously avoiding mystification through under-explanation. Kibuishi's art is well adapted for the changing moods, with intense action scenes and subtle emotional cues both done expertly well. The world created by Kibuishi is quite complex and wonderful to explore, and even though in this volume we only saw a Navinb corner of it, that just makes me want to read the next volume even more to see what they come up with.
Navin and Emily are interesting characters on their own as well as in contrast to one another, and they don't necessarily behave like Hollywood stereotypes might make us believe. Emily is intelligent, driven, passionate and very serious ( a side effect of her father's death no doubt), but she is also somewhat reckless in her pursuit of her mother, in contrast to the silly and somewhat naive, but also cautious Navin, who is uncomfortable with this entire venture, particularly Emily relying on the counsel of the amulet, something they don't actually understand, after all.
All in all, I think this comic has potential. It is beautifully drawn and has a good balance between comedy and drama, with a world full of interesting creatures and characters. I'm definitely looking forward to volume 2.