Saturday, November 24, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: By This Shall You Know Him

I was initially drawn to Jesse Jacobs' By This Shall You Know Him thanks to an Inkstuds interview he took part in.  Jacobs' intricate, geometrical artwork and limited color palette immediately caught my eye as unique, and I had a lot of fun reading through this work, and absorbing all the cool art.

The art is amazing, and the story in By This Shall You Know Him is no slouch either.  It follows three god-like beings who participate in these giant cosmic experiments at the encouragement of their instructor, another cosmic entity.  One of the cosmic beings, Ablavar, has created our universe, with a focus on our earth, and the living creatures on the planet. Blorax, one of Ablavar's fellow cosmic-colleagues, is a huge fan of his work, while the other, Zantek, is a jealous prick.  Zantek's early criticism led to the destruction of the dinosaurs, but brought about the creation of animals.

Everything is going great on Ablavar's creation until Zantek decides to further sabotage things by adding humans into the mix.

There's an additional story thread that follows the humans, and this piece is an up close and personal look at the Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel story.  At first, I didn't enjoy these sections of the story as much, mostly because I didn't have a full idea of what Jacobs was trying to pull off with this story. They also tended to jar me out of the peaceful, cosmic, slow-motion feel Jacobs portrays during the scenes with Ablavar and company.  However, Jacobs did a great job of weaving these two threads together to make a great story.

I gotta say I really loved this comic. The story has so many beautiful, graceful, and peaceful moments.  Yet, like real life, these moments are surrounded by bleak, sad, and violent periods as well.  By the end, all the events of the story build up to a beautifully, fitting ending...note that I didn't say it was a beautiful ending, but it is the right ending for this story.

By This Shall You Know Him is one of the most unique comics I've ever had the pleasure of reading.  I loved Jacobs' art, it is highly textured, highly detailed, and incredibly intricate.  I also enjoyed how he would pause the story every now and then to add some sort of exquisitely detailed, full-page illustration like the one on the right above.  I also loved this comic because there's nothing mundane about it.  So many comics that get widespread attention are essentially the same story, and same events over and over, while this is a creative, artful take on the creation of our universe and the cosmic events that led to our current state of being.

As I continue to develop my tastes and preferences in the comics medium, I find myself increasingly drawn towards works like Jacobs' By This Shall You Know Him.  This provides more than just fleeting thrills, and instead delivers a story that will linger in the mind of the reader long after the last page is turned.

Grade: A

All pictures courtesy of Koyama Press.

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