Craig Thompson’s Habibi

“Then, as you transition to adulthood, you realize you have some responsibility to the world. Stories, as you grow up, are more about actually confronting the real world. In that sense, the art does hold some sort of sacred role.” – Craig Thompson, from an article titled “Square fare: The design secrets behind Craig Thompson’s Habibi

Years ago I read Craig Thompson‘s Blankets and fell in love with his wonderful storytelling and magnificent drawings. I have returned to each of his books countless times and am always enchanted the by warmth he brings to the comics form.

Craig’s latest book, Habibi, took years to create and its more than 600 pages are clearly the work of a master; the art is often intricate, delicately balanced and breathtaking and the effort put into research and worldbuilding become clear in the incredible immersion this story offers. Just brushing the surface, this book is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever encountered.

It’s also incredibly ambitious in it’s field of concern. Habibi is a magnificent love story but it also looks unflinchingly at gender, sexuality, environmentalism, poverty, religion, racism, globalization, and exploitation with nuance and obvious care. This work has as much concern for global issues as it does for the intimate details of life and every part of the story is challenging both intellectually and emotionally.

Another of my favourite authors, Cory Doctorow, wrote glowingly about the book and mirrors my own sentiment about it.

“Habibi is an enormous and genre-busting graphic novel that blends Islamic mysticism, slave/liberation narratives and post-apocalyptic science fiction, creating a story that is erotic, grotesque, and profoundly moving.”

Habibi is told in a dreamlike, non-linear, dense style, with asides for swirling Islamic legends, the theory and practice of magic squares, the hidden meanings in Arabic calligraphy, jumping from time to time and place to place, giving the book a deep, mythic resonance. The tale is epic and often horrific, but so well told that it grips you right through it’s 670-odd pages.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like this, and I expect I’ll be thinking about it for a long, long time.
– Cory Doctorow, “Habibi: graphic novel blends Islamic legend, science fiction dystopia, love and loss

Like Blankets, the book is receiving overwhelming and much-deserved critical praise. Other reviews can be found a the Habibi website and a fascinating interview is at “Craig Thompson—The Devil Made Me Draw It“.

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