Graphic novel -- originally a seven-issue miniseries -- by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura, published by Image Comics back in 2008. I got the first issue of this when it first came out but never ended up getting anything after that. I used to regret that, but I’m actually happy about it now, because I think this story works best as a stand-alone graphic novel, rather than as a series of individual comic books.

The story focuses on an eccentric but whip-smart fifth grader named Barbara Thorson. She's a glorious character -- she’s terrifically smart, she’s got a smart mouth that can cut you to shreds from 50 yards, she’s an awesome D&D dungeon master, she knows more than anyone her age should know about obscure baseball trivia, she loves to wear weird animal-ear headgear, and possibly unsurprisingly, she has almost no friends. She lives at home with her older brother and sister -- her sister does most of the work to keep the family going, as their father left the family and their mom is mysteriously absentee.

And Barbara sees fairies and monsters everywhere, tells everyone that she fights and kills giants, and has forebodings of titanic monsters on the way to destroy everyone around her.

Yes, maybe Barbara is a bit more than merely eccentric.

Just about anything else I could tell you about this story would constitute a spoiler, and I wouldn't want to spoil any of this for you, because it's vastly fun to read and discover on your own. So I can't tell you much about Barbara's mighty weapon Coveleski (other than that it's named after Stan Coveleski, a pitcher who played in the majors in the 1910s and '20s), or about the secrets hiding in the upper floors of her house, and definitely nothing about the giants themselves, and whether they're real or imaginary.

Joe Kelly’s writing is entirely masterful. Killer dialogue and excellent characterization -- you will love the heck out of Barbara even while you’re wishing you could take a switch to her. The plot builds slow, with more and more pressure stacking up. And Niimura’s art is pretty amazing. It’s cartoony -- almost sketchy -- but it’s vastly eloquent at expressing emotion and action and mood.

The ending of this story is going to leave you terrified and breathless and maybe sad, for all the right reasons. It’s one of the few comics out there that gets me choked up every time I read it.

If you haven’t read it, you should read it. It's very good.

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