Goliath of Gath isn't much of a fighter. Given half a choice, he would pick admin work over patrolling in a heartbeat, to say nothing of his distaste for engaging in combat. Nonetheless, at the behest of the king he finds himself issuing a twice-daily challenge to the Israelites: "Choose a man. Let him come to me that we may fight. If he be able to kill me then we shall be your servants. But if I kill him, then you shall be our servants." Day after day he reluctantly repeats his speech, and the isolation of this duty gives him the chance to banter with his shield-bearer and reflect on the beauty of his surroundings. This is the story of David and Goliath as seen from Goliath's side of the Valley of Elah. Quiet moments in Goliath's life as a soldier are accentuated by Tom Gauld's drawing style, which contrasts minimalist scenery and near-geometric humans with densely crosshatched detail reminiscent of Edward Gorey. Goliath's battle is simultaneously tragic and bleakly funny, as bureaucracy pervades even this most mythic of figures.
Occasionally I like to try something completely different and today is one of those days. I've been given the opportunity to take a stab at reviewing a graphic novel. Rather than traditional superhero fare, however, my first foray into this more visual medium of storytelling, is a reinterpretation of a classic bible story.
In this version of events, Goliath is painted as a very sympathetic character. He has no desire to fight and would much rather spend his time contemplating the world, or quietly working. His enormous size leads people to believe he is a monster but nothing could be further from the truth. The reader meets an introspective soul who, through the course of his journey, gets to ponder the meaning of existence.
Tom Gauld's minimal artwork is extremely striking. There are panels were very little happens but this lack of action perfectly captures the sense of stillness in the landscape that Goliath inhabits. There are also moments where there is very little sound, again this is extremely effective. The first five pages of the novel, for example, don't feature any dialogue but give a wealth of insight into Goliath's gentle character.
It's not often that you get to read a story where you are aware of the outcome before you even begin. The uniqueness of reading events unfolding via Goliath's perspective, however, is refreshing.
I have to admit that there was a certain amount of trepidation on my part before I started reading. I'm a confirmed atheist and I was worried that I'm not the target audience for this but I needn't have worried. I've read this story multiple times now and I'm rather blown away by just how touching, subtle and rather beautiful it all is. Gauld has the lightest of touches and its impressive how the art and writing blend together to create something that is delightfully dry one moment, and then heart breakingly sad the next. The religious elements aside, this is the story of a man on a voyage of self-discovery.
Goliath is published by Drawn & Quarterly and is available on the 16th March 2012.
A freakishly tall yet meek army admin clerk called Goliath is tricked into pretending to be his army's "giant champion", a symbol that one of the King's advisors hopes will end the conflict if the opposing army's champion fails to meet Goliath's challenge. Alas, we all know how it ends...
Tom Gauld shows a different side to the famous David and Goliath story with Goliath portrayed as not the giant he was purported to be but an overly tall chap near 7 feet tall, who prefers working quietly at his desk to fighting. You feel sorry for him being used as he is solely for his appearance to trick the enemy into surrendering, especially when that enemy sends a champion with a slingshot out to face Goliath.
Well written and delightfully drawn in a deceptively simple yet captivating style that suits this quiet tale of a quiet man whose good nature was exploited by the cynicism of others. "Goliath" is an excellent comic book by a fantastic and underrated artist.
on 4 May 2012
Goliath is a beautiful, thought-provoking meditation on the myths we make from people's lives, and one of the best graphic novels to come out of Britain in recent years.
Tom Gauld has made something of a trademark of witty, calm storytelling with a dark undertone, and Goliath shows him at his best. We know the tragic ending to this tale already, so the discoveries the reader makes give the tale a kind of backward structure with all unknown elements - the big man behind the big myth, his backstory and character - being delicately fleshed out over the course of the tale.
Gauld's artwork is elegant as ever, with not a line wasted and everything sitting in its right place on the page. There's a beautifully light touch to the writing too, with apparently inconsequential - and often very funny - chatter between characters sometimes stretching out for pages. It's a slow, meditative and beautiful build to an inevitably tragic end.
It's not giving too much away to say that it all ends badly for Goliath, but it's Gauld's use of the 'violent noise' comic book convention at that climactic point, that really got me in the eye. It's the saddest noise you'll ever read.
on 5 April 2012
A simple story eloquently crafted and communicated. If anything - I wish there was more of it - but that is a compliment not a criticism. I love that such a 'big' theme/fable is recounted as an innocuous, passing - even mundane - moment in the primary character's life. If there had of been more given in the story, this clever ambience would not have been so effective. Great book - it's a keeper!