Amulet Book 5 Review

By | Monday, November 26, 2012 Leave a Comment
I just got a chance to read Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet, Book 5: Prince of the Elves tonight. Like most good YA books, it hasn't gotten nearly the press it should in the comics news circles, so I'm going to try to do my part to help rectify that.

I've been on board with the Amulet series since Day One, primarily on the strength of Kibuishi's previous Daisy Kutter book. (Which he's re-releasing through a recently successful Kickstarter.) Amulet, though, is decidedly in the fantasy realm, whereas Kutter was a Western. Different genres, but great art and storytelling.

The basic premise of the Amulet series is that Emily and her family stumble into a Wonderland-type world in which Emily becomes a stone keeper of great power. She eventually comes across and is helped by her great-grandfather's old friends, some robots and anthropomorphic animals. Book 5 specifically focuses on the history of the Elves, the prepartions for the impending battle/war, and a little more insight into the mysterious "voices" of the stones.

On the down-side, this is probably the weakest of the Amulet books thus far. Not as a fault of Kibuishi per se; it's just that the overall story is to the point where readers need a little more exposition and that happens to fall just before the impending climax. I suppose you could argueably claim that Kibuishi could have paced the story a little differently, so that some of the exposition got spread around a bit more, but I think it will work well enough when the entire series is viewed in its entirety. I don't think many people would deliberately START on Book 5, so Kibuishi has built up enough character investment over the previous four books to warrant a slower moving chapter like this.

Note that it's not written badly by any means; it's just not as viscerally engaging as the previous installments.

Irrespective of the story, the artwork is fantastic. All of these books are goregous, but each one seems to be more gorgeous than the last. A lot of that is immediately and most obviously attributable to the digital painting throughout. This is no mere coloring job; the colors add a very clear sense of place and feel and tone. The full-bleed slash pages in particular are incredibly striking.

But less obvious, I think, but equally significant is the depth that Kibuishi puts in the panels. There's more than a simple foreground/mid-ground/background set of elements; there's always a sense of flowing depth with objects weaving in and out of a very three-dimensional space. Even figures that, for all intents and purposes, are standing next to each other have just enough variation to put one a little closer to the reader than the other. Often, this is barely perceptible, but in the larger scheme of things, it gives the book a richness that many others lack.

Along those lines, Kibuishi provides a wide array of perspectives for his characters. He doesn't have one or two standard close-up shots, and one or two medium shots, etc. Every panel has a specific and almost unique staging that contribute to the aforementioned depth, but also give a greater sense of movement that might be actually occuring. By continually circling around the characters, the reader doesn't realize that they're really just standing around talking.

Despite this being a weaker Amulet book on its own, it still ranks more highly than many other comics I've read. I think this series as a whole is going to hold up very well for a long time, in much the same way Bone has. The first of this series came out in 2008 and I daresay that the kids who grew up reading this are going to be writing college essays on it by the end of the decade.
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