Tuesday, March 13, 2012
The Big Kahn (2009)
In The Big Kahn, a Jewish family learns at the funeral of its patriarch that their father was not the man that they believed him to be. This understandably causes the individual members to question the foundations of their very identity, and to some degree begs the same question of the reader.
While a solid story, I found my questions related more to the industry that produced it. You see, this was published as part of NBM Lit, which I suppose is a way of adding extra prension to the term "graphic novel" by more closely associating it with literature. The Big Kahn is more of an independent motion picture whose budget only allowed for storyboards. Like most modern graphic novels, this is not a marriage of prose and pictures. There are no captions, thought balloons or text asides. These are figures at rest or in motion, talking to one another. The artist does his best to stand in for actors, and he works with the writer for direction. There are a couple of brief sequences that blur the line between fact and fiction in a more effective way than film, but otherwise, there's no reason why this story would need to be comitted to sequential art.
Even as a "graphic novel," it's more of a novella. The characters feel real and the premise is sound, but the plot falls into the trope of the two leads switching polemics, saint to sinner, sinner to saint. It doesn't read as tired as it sounds, but there also isn't a lot to the story beyond going through those motions. The youngest son is troubled, and helps to bring elements of the story to a head, but there isn't enough meat on his bones to stand as a character. Likewise, the matriarch sits in the background for three quarters of the story, just starts to get interesting, and then she's gone. As you're reading it, the story is entertaining, and there's a nice punch in the last panel, but on reflection there's too much left unsaid to be wholly satisfying.
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