Monday, December 31, 2012

Review: Goliath, by Tom Gauld

Tom Gauld's Goliath retells the biblical tale of "David and Goliath," as originally recounted in 1 Samuel 17, except that this version is told from the giant's point of view. And a very reluctant giant he is; hardly a warrior ("I mainly do admin"), Goliath of Gath is thrust into his position as the Philistines's representative champion though the machinations of a scheming captain. His confusion is palpable, and understandable, but -- being a good soldier -- he does as he's told, finding a sort of peace in his new lot until the inevitable end. As you'd expect from the title, it's Goliath who has our sympathies in this version of the tale: The Giant as Everyman.

Gauld is a crackerjack cartoonist, and his somewhat geometric art style lends a bit of ancientness and grandeur to his telling, even as his dialogue is often mundane and just-this-side-of-sarcastically humorous. His choice to include biblical narration at various points throughout the tale reminds us that this is an old story, yet it also serves as a foil to his own chosen perspective on events, creating ironic high/low tonal distinctions. He also does amazing things with text, such as chopping off word balloons in unexpected fashions to create mood or utilizing a bizarre "typeface" for an Israelite's speech to highlight the fact that Goliath can't understand a word the other man is saying.

The book is a joy to read, but -- because Gauld is such a master of pacing and the use of silent panels -- it also seemed to be over far too quickly. I find myself in the odd position of wishing that this tale were the anchor story in an anthology of other work by Gauld; Goliath is more of an excellently realized "graphic short story" than a "graphic novel." I know that he has another book in the works, a collection of his Guardian strips, and I'm very much looking forward to that. (You can get a preview of those strips in his excellent Tumblr site, You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack.) I'm also looking forward to seeing him apply his considerable cartooning chops to a really long-form narrative in the future.

Goliath
by Tom Gauld
Drawn and Quarterly, 2012
ISBN-10: 1770460659
ISBN-13: 978-1770460652
96 pages, $19.95