Amulet Vol. 1: The Stonekeeper

By Kazu Kibuishi
208 pages, color
Published by Graphix/Scholastic Books

In mid-2006, Kazu Kibuishi temporarily placed his monthly webcomic Copper on hold so he could work on a new project, Amulet. I’ll admit that I was feeling more than a little grouchy at the time this knowledge came out; what was this strange new interloper that was coming between me and my beloved Copper? It was a little silly, with Kibuishi’s stories in the Flight anthologies as well as Daisy Kutter having certainly proven that Kibuishi wasn’t a one-trick pony. But in the back of my head was always the mantra, “Wait and see,” when it came to Amulet. Now the waiting is over—and trust me when I say that there is plenty of seeing to be done.

Emily and Navin are moving, again. After a road accident took their father from them, their mother has decided it’s time to move to their grandfather’s old home deep in the woods. Grandpa Silas was an inventor, though, and there are a number of peculiar creations and creatures lurking in the home. When their mother is taken captive by a monster that looks like a cross between an octopus and a spider, though, the two are forced to cross into another world where a mysterious amulet is guiding them towards their last chance to save their family—and a lot of danger as well.

Amulet is the sort of book that hits the ground running in terms of story, plunging the reader into a tense situation in a matter of pages. Things never really let up, either. While Kibuishi takes a little bit of time introducing Emily, Navin, and their mother, you’re also already seeing monsters lurking around the corners, just trying to strike at them. It’s much to Kibuishi’s credit that this non-stop action never feels tiring or gratuitous; turning the pages, even though I’m probably a little older than the book’s youngest intended readers, I was near-breathless to see just what would happen next. Maybe it’s because Kibuishi starts the book off with a tragedy that you never lose the impression that bad things might happen to our heroes, maybe it’s merely the imaginative forms of the monsters in Amulet, but there always seems to be a remarkably high level of tension in the book. I also appreciated that Amulet isn’t a one-character show; while Emily is in many ways the main character, especially with her possession of the titular amulet, she’s by no means the only person who can accomplish things in the story. Navin gets his own turn in the spotlight, and everyone from their mother to their mysterious allies in the other world has something to do.

Readers of the Flight anthologies or of Copper will be completely unsurprised at how beautiful Amulet‘s art is. Kibuishi has a smooth, energetic line in his art, with animation-influenced character designs and backgrounds. There’s a lush richness to the pages of the book, with little details like covered bridges across streams and ornate window designs just being the tip of the iceberg, background effects to a comic where so much thought has been placed into its visuals. This is the sort of book where children will be staring at it for hours, just drinking in all of the strange and wonderful creations scattered throughout its pages. From walking buildings to living creatures as prisons, Kibuishi makes every concept seem simultaneously amazing and realistic. I also have to give Kibuishi a special amount of credit for making the monsters in Amulet so great; each one seems more fantastical than the previous one, and these are definitely ones that will excite and even scare readers a little bit. I think that people who pick up Amulet and just look at the visuals without reading the book will still get more than their money’s worth—not that one should skip its strong writing, of course.

By the time I was done with Amulet Vol. 1: The Stonekeeper, I was simultaneously impressed with how much Kibuishi packed into its 208 pages, and wondering just how one more volume can possibly wrap everything up. Then I realized it wasn’t that I doubted Kibuishi could do it, but rather that I was hoping the series would be longer because the idea of only one more volume was a little sad to contemplate. Needless to say, I’m fully convinced that putting Copper on hold to work on Amulet was more than worth it. If you’re looking for a new graphic novel to kick off the new year, I think you’ve got a winner right here.

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