By Tom Gauld
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Format: Hardcover, 10 x 7, partial color, $19.95
Reviewed by: Diamond BookShelf
Goliath retells the biblical story of David and Goliath from the giant's perspective. While traditionally depicted as a formidable champion miraculously vanquished by the hero/underdog, Gauld's version recasts Goliath as an unwilling pawn who would rather do paperwork and is never fully informed on what his duty entails. He is instructed by his cheerfully distant captain to don armor and read a message challenging the Israelites to one-on-one combat. The captain, a true middle manager, assures bewildered Goliath that he has the support of the entire Philistine army, while leaving him in the valley with defective armor and one young boy to carry his shield.
Gauld employs a spare, minimalist style in both writing and artwork, with the result that each word and every mark contributes to the story and nothing is extraneous. Characters are rendered from simple shapes, mainly distinguished from one another by relative size and the shape of their hats. They are nevertheless quite expressive; Goliath's hunched posture and blank dot-eyed stare give him a meek appearance despite his large size, effectively conveying his helplessness. Adding to this impression is the use of negative space; Goliath and his tiny shield-bearer pop out against the big sky and empty terrain of the valley where they wait for a challenger. Gauld works with a minimal color palette of black, white and brown and uses different levels of crosshatching to carve out depth and texture.
All of these elements work together to tell a story that unfolds in small, mostly quiet moments, slowly building up to its inevitable conclusion. While the story hinges upon one violent action, most of the time is spent in inaction and doomed anticipation. By filling in the empty space left out of the story of David and Goliath, Gauld transforms it into an absurd tragedy. In this version, Goliath is simply a man doing what he is told by distant superiors, who quickly lose enthusiasm for their plan when it doesn't work right away. He is in a similar position to the Philistines' captive bear, treated as a fearsome adversary while really nothing more than an exploited prisoner. By depicting the story this way, Gauld provides an interesting perspective on where villainy comes from and how it takes shape.
There is no inappropriate content, but the story content, subtle artwork and dry humor will be most appealing to older readers. Goliath is a finely crafted graphic novel that may not take long to read but, like David's stone, is capable of great impact.