- Posted by Johanna on August 19, 2012 at 2:12 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: by Barry Deutsch
- PUBLISHER: Amulet Books; $16.95 US
The 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 well. Mirka is still 11 years old, still headstrong and determined and seeking meaning in her life she isn’t ready for yet.
She has a sword, but since she’s grounded, she’s got no chance to use it. When she tries to bully the troll into teaching her more about sword-fighting, he summons a meteorite that winds up becoming a Mirka duplicate who wants to take over her life. It’s a perfect metaphor for how angry and unhappy proto-adolescents can become when feeling like they don’t fit in. Mirka’s doppleganger is better than she is at everything, adding to her pain at not feeling special enough.
The more I see of stepmother Fruma, the more I appreciate how thankless her role is. She tries to channel Mirka’s aggression and boredom through teaching her chess, but Mirka’s too young to appreciate how challenging and rewarding non-physical battles can be. She still chooses the straight-ahead, charge-in-regardless-with-a-sword approach every time, and this book is about teaching her how it can be a better strategy to outthink your opponent.
She also needs to learn self-control, as every youngster does, and eventually to understand that the rules she chafes under are there for her protection. But instead of moralizing, this story is all wrapped up in an imaginative fantasy.
Author Barry Deutsch doesn’t give us much time with Fruma and Mirka’s family this time around, instead having Mirka deal with feeling isolated and misunderstood due to the circumstances. However, Fruma is the one who’s there for Mirka when things look darkest, sharing inspirational stories of family. She also gets the best line in the book: “Oh, good. Adolescence.”
(On a re-read, I think that there might be plenty of Mirka’s family in the book, and more might have unbalanced things. It’s a testament to how rich the world he’s built is that I want to see much more of everyone.)
Artistically, there’s an early sequence in which Mirka has to demonstrate a good deal of endurance. Deutsch’s technique of drawing large central figures surrounded by smaller moments of focus keeps attention on Mirka’s struggle while elaborating on all the many thoughts and challenges running through her mind. It’s an excellent choice.
Deutsch has become even more accomplished in his story construction, clearly and cleverly setting up later plot points through small, funny scenes early on. His facility with expression continues to be a high point, with Mirka’s reactions, and those around her, entertaining and involving. I feel for and with Mirka as she struggles so hard, as though I was right there with her. I hope this series continues, since I’d like to see more of her and her family.
Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite can be preordered now from your favorite book retailer or from comic shops with Diamond code AUG12 0772. It’s due out in November. Previews are posted at the book’s website. (The publisher provided an advance review copy.)