Habibi (Graphic Novel)
Black and white
Publication Date: First Edition - September 20, 2011
Habibi (“my beloved” in Arabic) by Craig Thompson is an incredibly moving story of love, loss and redemption that blankets almost every emotion in the human grab bag. It’s also a beautifully detailed piece of graphic art with what I can only assume began with a great deal of research and countless hours of design. It is erotic, brutal, sad, joyous, dark, evil, sinister, mature, compassionate, and alive with real, sympathetic human beings. The layout, calligraphy, and complex artwork are, in my opinion, absolutely gorgeous; the work of genius. Every page reveals just how brilliant a graphic artist Craig Thompson is. Each panel is aesthetically pleasing to the eye (usually in more than one aspect – i.e. numerology, characters, religion, borders, language, etc.) and is filled with intricate, arabesque-like decorations that demand your full attention. Because of this, Habibi is not a page turning graphic novel that causes you to flip through quickly to see how it all ends (though you definitely want to.) Instead, the artwork is so engaging, detailed, and stunning that it forces you to take your time studying each page for the aesthetics and to capture all the vital pieces of the visual story. There is magic and craft between the covers of Habibi – both written and drawn. There is spirituality and faith and philosophy. There is cruelty, eroticism, butchery, and death but there’s also love, hope, and beauty and that’s where Mr. Thompson excels. While unconventional by anyone’s standards the love story in Habibi is, nevertheless, touching yet always comes with a price. And while comfort and warmth lie just out of reach emotional distress and heart-ache fill the lives of every character in the story (as it does in life.) Erotic, paternal, and platonic the love story grabs you from the shocking opening lines and than holds you at arms length throughout. It is elusive but not frustratingly so to the reader. Thompson certainly understands how to draw his readers in (and keep their attention) both visually and emotionally.
Habibi is a pre-apocalyptic story depicting the slow demise of the planet earth and tells the tragic story of Dodola and Zam, child slaves bound to each other by chance, as they are caught up in the cruelties of a world on the brink of destruction. Pollution is at its all-time worst, water is a rare and expensive commodity, and the world seems to understand that its days are numbered. The characters too seem to act and react as if they are fully aware that the end is near. As the world decays we witness two souls searching to fit in and find love as they move slowly towards each other through the worst of circumstances, only to become separated, and then to find each other once again. Dodola and Zam’s transformation between separations, brought on by the circumstances of an increasingly cruel world, serves to enlighten the reader about the distress of emotional suffering, the chasm between the first and third worlds and their religions, and the redemption found in hope and love.
File with: Love story, Eastern philosophy, religion, graphic design, art, Scheherazade, and the human condition.
5 out of 5 stars