The Great Amulet Quest, Part 2by Bobby Acosta on Jan. 11, 2012, under Classroom, Comic Books, Kazu Kibuishi, Opinion, Reviews
Last week, I started writing about “The Great Amulet Quest” and discussed the points of the series Amulet by Kazu Kibuishithat actually carried on to all the other books. The great aspects of the series that are present in all four of the books that have been released so far. Focusing on just the two, the writing and the art, I already described many of its credible sources.
Kazu Kibuishi and his artistic collaborators create a brand new fantasy world that our main characters, Emily and Navin, begin to discover and explore and adventure in. Now, I’ve read and seen a good amount of fantasy stories and you begin to pick up on common elements that appear in all of them. So, artistically representing them in comic form to appeal to younger readers is a challenge.
I believe Kazu Kibuishi and his mates do a great job of keeping them engaged, however. They mix multi-panel, fully developed pages of intense action, such as the amazing airplane chase where the students track down their mother, to conversational pieces that keep their attention.
I should know. If students can read and not talk to their neighbors, then whatever their reading is doing a good job.
Following that, the overall story borderlines on what I deemed mature enough to be meant entirely for non-all-ages.
So, it goes without saying that this story is so mature, without actually crossing into a territory of unreadable. How does that even begin to work?
Now, Amulet is considered an all-ages book, meaning that this book is meant primarily for children. I would guess, under the age of 14. However, on this great quest I embarked upon weeks ago, I tried to find what made this series the all-appealing wonderment of the books.
Let’s break it down volume by volume.
Amulet, Volume 2: The Stonekeeper’s Curse
With their mother kidnapped by evil elves (Who knew elves would be the bad guys? They’re always so friendly in other fiction. Already, this story is breaking common grounds with other fantasy tales.) Emily and Navin, now teamed with their great-grandfather’s robots and their giant walking house, begin to figure out a way to save their mother from impending death.
Very serious tones.
Within the second volume alone, we’re not just shown fantastic artwork depicting the natural environment of the world, which we do continue to see, but Kibuishi opens up the culture and its inhabitants to us. Human-type beings are slowly devolving into talking, anthro-morphic animals. While it appears cuddly on the outside, these creatures have something to say about their predicament.
The Elf King, the father of Prince Trellis, primarily antagonist of the first volume, is revealed and his machinations are put into place: Death of the Stonekeeper, Emily. Accompanying Prince Trellis is the Elf King’s general, Luger. Luger is established right away; with orders that state if they do not succeed he is to kill Trellis.
All of this is spoken as eloquently and with a classical sense that never devolves into cheep entertainment for the kids. This is isn’t violence for the sake of violence. This is violence to showcase that creatures of the world are evil.
Things grow darker from here on in, as Emily, Navin and their new allies square off against the armies of the Elf King. All the way from cities to the top of talking-forest mountains, we are witness to Emily’s struggle. The amulet that has given Emily amazing gifts is also a curse, a curse of temptation, one that constantly asks to be let in control. What waits? We’re never sure, and that’s something that’s exciting. As an avid reader of comics, you sometimes begin to feel like you’ve seen everything. Kibuishi, however, always keeps up the mystery. (Four volumes in, and we still don’t know.)
Is the amulet an analogy for the temptation that children always feel? Possibly.
The volume closes on a positive note, though, and tons of new questions are asked.
Volume 3: The Cloud Searchers
Darkness. Mystery. Sadness. Gloom.
All makes for exciting fantasies and their epics.
Our lead characters Emily and Navin, with their guardian Leon Redbeard and the robot-crew try to discover the weakness to the Elf King. Within some very well crafted pages depicting the history of the world, we learn the true nature and back story of this world and it’s one filled with lies, deception and mystery.
They never lose their optimism, though, or their humor. By the third volume, as I was reading, I began to find myself on a happier note following sad story beats. Emily and Navin still remain as optimistic as possible that they can save this world. Long gone are the thoughts of returning back home, as in the previous two volumes. No, now they are dead set on finding their way to floating city of Cielis to ask the Stonekeeper Councils for help.
Will they? Won’t they? It’s all up for your own reading pleasure.
Within book three, what I can guess is the halfway point of the series since only four volumes have been published. What have we come to see so far?
Maturity. It all comes back to the maturity levels in this story.
I’m not going to discuss again about how the books dark themes and mature storytelling are interspersed throughout the entirety of the story.
I’m talking about the maturity of the characters themselves.
When the story began, we were given a glimpse of what Navin was like. Even though the main heroine of our story is Emily, Navin is given his moments to shine. As the stereotypical whining brother, we were never shown exactly what kind of real brother he was. But, slowly, we see that he takes great inspiration from his sister. Anytime Emily is forced to rise to the occasion, taking on responsibilities far outside her realm, Navin is always there. Closely watching. Observing.
What do we ask of our kids? That they grow and learn responsibility? Well, when you’re being attacked by sky wyverns (a type of dragon) while flying an airship into a constantly running storm that never stops with the heel of the ship unattended, then yes, I believe that responsibility it what’s needed.
Navin is forced to grow up faster than he wants.
What is this message giving to my students?
Well, I still have one volume left to find out.
We take a look at the volume published most recently, The Last Council, and see what final character developments Emily and Navin experience, while reflecting on the overall themes of the series.
- In addition to writing for the column “Comic Matters” for the Tucson Citizen website, Bobby Acosta is also a 5th Grade Elementary school teacher, frequenter of local comic book shop Heroes & Villains, and explorer of the importance of comics. Contact him at email@example.com