A sweeping epic steeped in religious mysticism and the deep, emotional connection of two lost souls, Craig Thompson’s Habibi is quite simply a masterpiece. With a story and art that are achingly beautiful, he has created what I believe will be the graphic novel of the year.
I know I’m gushing here, but trust me.
As part of the Brooklyn Book Festival, WORD hosted An Evening with Craig Thompson. The author and artist walked the audience through the seven-year long process of creating Habibi. From its very inception, Thompson brought nothing but fine-tuned craftsmanship and artistry to the story, delving into the world of his characters.
Brought together under terrible circumstances, refugees Dodola and Zam form a deep bond that starts in childhood and lasts through an onslaught of imprisonments and escapes. It’s a timeless story of two soulmates against a harsh and grotesque world.
Like David Mazzucchelli in Asterios Polyp, Thompson understands and masters the comics medium in a way very few do. This is sequential art and visual storytelling at its best. What Thomspon has created with Habibi could only ever be done as a graphic novel. If you were to transfer the story to any other medium, it would lose its heart. The narrative is beautifully layered, with intricacies beyond the hand-drawn calligraphy and ornamentation. Even the traditionally basic nine-panel grid of comics has a deeper meaning here. But at no point does story buckle under its own weight or complexity, and Thompson masterfully juggles and balances the story elements.
His cult-classic graphic novel, Blankets, is known in the comics community as the book you give to your significant other if you want to get them into comics. Habibi should be given to anyone to show them what a powerful and moving medium comics can be.