1 March 2012
Review 20: Chimichanga by Eric Powell
A curiously charming graphic novel that children will love. Lula, the bearded girl, is a superb heroine who is determined and funny. The artwork is brillant and I completely fell for this quirky and cute graphic novel and it is my favourite on the Stan Lee Excelsior Award shortlist.
First Line: 'Expect clear skies for the rest of the week, not a glimpse of rain in sight.'
The story of Chimichanga is that of Lula, the bearded girl. She lives with her Grandpa, Wrinkle, at the circus that he is the ringmaster of. Unfortunately, the run-down circus is on its last legs and its attractions are sights such as Horatio the boy faced fish and Randy, the man with the strength of a slightly larger man, who wrestles kittens and punches his way out of wet paper bags. Lula acquires a beast she names Chimichanga - a well-intentioned but clumsy monster who comes from an egg that Lula has traded for one of her beard hairs with Dagmar the Witch. Whilst Lula and Chimichanga start to help the circus change its fortunes, Dagmar discovers that Lula's beard hair temporarily cure flatulence. So she takes the potion to the dastardly Dinderly Pharmaceuticals who plot to kidnap Lula so they can harvest her beard hair as they are all about cures that only last temporarily so customers have to keep buying more. It is up to Lula and Chimichanga to bring down the corrupt company, rescue the circus and live happily ever after.
Normally, the artwork in a graphic novel is lost on me. I can theoretically appreciate it is as skilful but graphic novels rarely have awful artwork and therefore subtleties of different artists and styles go over my head somewhat and the story is normally what hooks me or otherwise. With Chimichanga, the art and the story work perfectly together and one would not work as well without the other. Eric Powell both wrote and illustrated the graphic novel and you can tell because they work together so beautifully. I was going to include some quotes from the graphic novel but without the wonderfully charming artwork they aren't as effective. Lula is such a wonderful character and the illustrations are superb, the initial reaction may not be thinking she's adorable, what with the full beard and curly moustache, but once you're introduced to her and her personality shines through, you will be smitten and the illustrations are a key part of this. I loved one shot of her holding the little finger of Chimichanga with her whole hand and a drawing of her writing an angry letter to the mothers of the pharmaceutical baddies is wonderful. My students who are reading this also enjoyed the more slapstick elements, such as when Chimichanga first arrives at the circus and attempts to eat everything and wash himself in the drinking water.
This is a charming, whimsical and generally lovely graphic novel that children and adults will love. Children between 10 and 14 will particularly enjoy it. It is moving and funny and just wonderful.