Kid Beowulf: The Blood-Bound Oath
Beowulf is a story that has been told and retold over and over again. After first being the earliest recorded story in European History over a thousand years ago, Beowulf has been remade an infinite number of times in novels, comics, movies and even games. KID BEOWULF: The Blood-Bound Oath by Alexis E. Fajardo is the latest retelling of this epic poem with a little bit of modernity.
The original poem featuring the hero Beowulf was a written recording of many oral traditions. The poem is the culmination of many years of storytelling and follows the long life the titular hero. Kid Beowulf, however, breaks from this tradition and begins by telling the story of Beowulf’s predecessors. Like the poem, Fajardo’s book meanders a bit, exploring the setting of Denmark and the conflicts between the differing tribes living there over a thousand years ago.
"Fajardo is obviously a history buff and takes great pains to research the time period. [The art] is fun and colorful and the characters appear very expressive, with exaggerated movements and gestures."
This is perhaps the best part of the book. Fajardo is obviously a history buff and takes great pains to research the time period. The bulk of the book follows the political machinations of Beowulf’s grandfather, King Hrothgar, and the fallout surrounding his aspirations and the deal he made with a dragon. The story also includes several other mythical historical figures birthed from the legend. This fleshing out of the poem’s mythology is enriched by an addendum at the end of the book. The addendum includes world maps of the time, historical terms, character bios and even a short section on Fajardo’s artistic process.
While the historical context and focus in the story is great and intriguing, the problem is that Kid Beowulf is not really in the book very much. The cover and several spot illustrations feature the protagonist, his brother and a friend, but these characters do not appear until the third act. Even in the third act, the trio remain secondary characters until the end of the book.
In addition to the writing, Fajardo also supplies the art. It is fun and colorful and the characters appear very expressive, with exaggerated movements and gestures. The art style is simple and decisive. Fajardo manages to keep it from being oversimplified yet still very suitable for kids to easily follow. At times, the work is very reminiscent of the Looney Tunes. Over the course of the three acts, he does a magnificent job of progressing the characters visually as they age over the time changes.
While Fajardo put great research into creating a realistic backdrop for KID BEOWULF: The Blood-Bound Oath, the art does not feel very well referenced. Several background characters often look as if they are wearing t-shirts and Beowulf’s mother looks to be wearing a cocktail dress. The architecture and structures never really feel specific or uniquely Danish, the forests are always sparse with randomly color trees that feel more like an afterthought rather than studied observation of an environment. Fajardo doesn’t employ a great deal of perspective and anatomical knowledge for this book, leaving the characters looking wonky and incorrect while leaving the backgrounds feeling unrealistic and made up.
KID BEOWULF: The Blood-Bound Oathis a fun book. It’s a nice exploration of Danish mythology and folklore wrapped in a colorful package. Despite some art and story hiccups, the retelling is an entertaining exploration into Danish mythology.
Reviewed by Michael Lee Harris on August 19, 2016