Home > Lifestyle > Books > Reviews
Friday August 30, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Friday August 30, 2013 MYT 8:24:54 AM
By Michael Cheang
WE’VE all heard the story of David and Goliath – of how a young man named David challenged the hulking warrior Goliath to single combat in the Valley of Elah, and laid him low with a single stone from his slingshot.
But have you ever wondered why David found it so easy to kill Goliath? Or why Goliath took it upon himself to stand in the valley for 40 days straight, shouting and challenging the opposing army to single combat? Was it because he was a fearless, ferocious warrior, who took it upon himself to win the war for his side? Or, as Tom Gauld’s Goliath imagines, was he really just a hulking but weak administrator who was ordered to do so?
Nominated for the 2013 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album, Goliath is a poignant, bittersweet reimagination of the David and Goliath legend. In Gauld’s version, Goliath of Gath isn’t much of a fighter at all, but a timid, peace-loving soul who would rather pick administrative work over patrolling or combat.
One day, his bureaucratic superior officer comes up with a brilliant idea to help win the war, which involves Goliath, probably most physically intimidating man in the army, going to the frontline and issuing a challenge for single combat to settle the war. Forced into a situation he would rather not be in, Goliath reluctantly repeats this challenge twice a day for forty days.
Goliath is the story of those forty days, where we see the tragedy, loneliness and sadness of the reluctant champion as he goes about his daily task, hoping no one actually comes forward to challenge him. It is a story that evokes a sense of tragic bleakness and quiet melancholy, as Gauld slowly edges our poor protagonist towards his inevitable doom.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Gauld, a cartoonist for the New York Times Magazine, has a minimalist drawing style that helps alleviate the sadness of the subject, giving it a lighter, slightly humorous tone while making us sympathise with Goliath at the same time.
His script is sharp, witty and painfully foreboding – Goliath’s quiet pleading with his officer to let him continue with his work is heart-wrenching; and while his conversations with his young shield-bearer may seem simple, given what we know will happen to him, the simplicity and grace of these seemingly mundane moments help to drive home the enormity of what is going to happen to the gentle Goliath.
Although Goliath did not win the Eisner in the end, it is no shame losing out to Chris Ware’s towering masterpiece Building Stories. With its simplicity, charm and tragic melancholy, Goliath is an immense masterpiece in its own right.
Tags / Keywords:
Goliath, Tom Gauld, graphic novel, review
Copyright © 1995-2013 Star Publications (M) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)