Over the past week, I have been reading Craig Thompson’s newest offering, “Habibi,” and I am quite pleased with the graphic novel.
Following the story of Dodola and her adopted brother, Zam, whom she raises like a son, the book looks into numerous facets of Middle Eastern life. Islam plays an important role throughout the text as means of guiding the characters and as numerous tales from the Qu’ran frame the primary story.
During the story, men from the local palace captured Dodola, taking her to the royal harem where she was forced to surrender her body to the sultan over the course of six years. After Dodola went missing, Zam set out to find her while running into troubles of his own.
As much as the story was about two people searching for each other, the story was about Zam finding himself. The unnamed Middle Eastern country went through radical changes in the six years and Zam must find a place for him and Dodola, should he find her, and the teachings found in the Qu’ran.
The content of the book strays from Thompson’s previous graphic novels, “Blankets” and “Good-Bye, Chunky Rice,” in that the book deals with very serious and graphic material. However, Thompson expertly weaved the story to a fitting finish.
In addition to fine story telling, Thompson’s artwork rose to higher level with “Habibi.” Still operating in black and white, every panel aches with the amount of detail present. Thompson’s line work harkens to the style of Joe Sacco, fitting, of course, then that Sacco received a special note at the end of the book. Sprawling two-page layouts throughout the book just bleed style and substance.
I can register only one complaint with the book. In certain panels, characters broke the fourth wall by acknowledging the reader through coy glances. On more than one occasion, this broke the flow of the page and just gave off an awkward feeling.
Despite my complaint, I really enjoyed this book. The content is not for everyone, but the story is expertly told and drawn. The book is a behemoth, coming in around 640 pages, but well worth the time and money.
Final Grade: A