Habibi by Craig Thompson either needs to be a little bit longer or a whole lot shorter. At almost 700 pages, it’s a pretty impressive work; even if the subject matter wasn’t complex and important, I think Thompson should be applauded for putting a comic together that’s so long (to put it in contrast, Scott Adams has made a new Dilbert comic every day for the last 20 years; collected, it takes up only 600 pages)
The story is about a girl in the middle east who is sold into slavery, escapes, finds another orphan, raises him, is enslaved again, her son/brother then tries to find her and he does, at which point he becomes her son/brother/husband. There’s an interesting subtext about the connection of symbols to words to stories to power to the similarities between Islam and Christianity.
There’s also an interesting thing about how the art was created. No photocopies were made and it looks like every stroke was made by brush. Look at these pages. I’m struck by the number of hours something this simple took:
As sad as it is, I think if I was able to draw this intricately this quickly, I’d still only be 300 pages in to Tiny Life.
But here’s why I say that the length is wrong: through most of the book, I thought it took place long ago. There’s slavery, a pronounced caste system, there are slums, witch doctors, everyone is riding a camel, everyone is carrying a scimitar… but then at one point a character, who becomes a eunuch in order to work around the concubines at the sultan’s palace, works in a water-bottling factory. He considers buying a fishing boat with an outboard motor. He thinks Netflix making an Iron Fist series is a bad idea.
I know you could say that this just highlights how slowly many middle-eastern countries are evolving; you could say that all of these things still happen. But the problem is that one of the main themes of the book is that we’re all alike; Catholicism and Islam are essentially the same, with some minute differences in how the holy books are set up. Contrast that with the other main theme of the book: men can’t control their dicks and they treat women like vaginas with arms whereas women use this as an advantage by getting good at using their vaginas to control men.
So, either Thompson has to make it a little longer and add a little something about how the Middle East is getting better at sexual equality, or shave off about 400 pages and make a judgement: we’re better.
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