*Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword — Best of 2010

Or, as the subtitle has it, “Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl”. The important piece there is the last, because what makes this graphic novel so remarkable is its combination of folkloric adventure with the authentic, respectful portrayal of that particular culture.

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword cover
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword
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Mirka chafes against the knitting and other homecrafts in which her stepmother Fruma aims to train her. She’s an agressive, argumentative back-talker, too smart for her own good and her place in a traditional community that values fitting in. Mirka doesn’t realize just how much Fruma is teaching her by challenging her with logical and religious debates, and her many sisters are much better at accepting their eventual fate as wives.

Mirka takes a grape from a witch’s vine growing on the fence of a wonderful building, previously unseen, which sets into motion a battle between her and a very smart pig, before she sets out on a quest for a sword with which to slay dragons. Along the way, we also see her family celebrate an orthodox Shabbos.

The characters are simple, dot eyes and line noses, but always in motion, always expressing something with their arms and faces. Deutsch’s work is a little stiff when it comes to the most active sequences — when one person chases another early on, they look like they’re speed-walking instead of running after each other — but the real meat of the story is in moments, often conversational.

The story-telling is simple and straightforward, so as not to get in the way of the reader taking in the details of Mirka’s life and dreams. (Although at various important moments, the panel grid changes to highlight the mood or emphasize particular visuals.) The challenge comes in the language, with Yiddish words used frequently and translated at the bottom of the page. It adds to the fable-like feeling, with words unfamiliar to many readers providing an exotic overlay.

I’m still a bit uncomfortable with aspects of Mirka’s life — the way the kids are separated boys and girls at school, the importance of the family reputation so the girls’ parents can find them a good husband — but in personality, she’s full of imagination and she’s fearless. She stands up to bullies, even if she has to hide her actions from those who think it’s not suitable for a girl to do. I hope those qualities aren’t drummed out of her as she grows older. That we see women with strong minds who value intelligence (of all kinds) gives hope. The suggestion that imagination makes even the most restrictive life and mundane tasks more pleasurable is a smart one, even if the ending is abrupt.

Although I have pieces and parts I quibble about with the book, it’s so fresh and unusual a subject, told with such affection, and providing such an unusual perspective on the world, that I made it one of my best of last year. The first 15 pages are available to read at the book’s website.

7 Responses to “*Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword — Best of 2010”

  1. Hereville — “Comics Worth Reading” reviews Hereville Says:

    […] Comics Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson reviews Hereville, and also declares it one of the best comics of 2010. […]

  2. Oracle’s Last Supper: A History of Batgirls » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] author of Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, Barry Deutsch, is drawing “Oracle’s Last Supper”, a print featuring “nearly every […]

  3. August 2012 Previews: Short, Sweet, and Fangirling » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] first volume in this now-series, How Mirka Got Her Sword, was one of my Best Books of 2010. The sequel promises to be even more exciting, as the story […]

  4. *Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite — Recommended » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] sequel to Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword picks up where the previous book left off — but in such a way that it stands alone perfectly […]

  5. Good Comics Out October 3 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Amulet Books, Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword ($9.95) is a re-release, since the sequel, How Mirka Met a Meteorite is due out later this month. […]

  6. Who Is AC? » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] adventure comics that tie their themes and plotlines together more tightly. I’m thinking of Hereville, for one. I wanted to know more about items mentioned but not developed. Why is Lin still making […]

  7. Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch | The Lemon-Squash Book Club Says:

    […] reviews at Comics Worth Reading and School Library Journal (scroll to the bottom to catch an interview with Barry […]




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