Nobody Likes a Goblin
By Ben Hatke
A whimsical fantasy tale, Nobody Likes a Goblin, flourishes in the glut of children’s (and adults) graphic novels. Incredibly well written and beautifully drawn, it is sure to invite the reader in and not let go. Following in his legacy of Little Robot (another spectacular tale I highly recommend), the light, airy art, and fine storytelling in this grand adventure, Ben Hatke makes this book worth the read for audiences young and old. It really is that well done. Catering to the hero’s journey, a resurgence I’m seeing more and more each graphic novel I read, Nobody Likes a Goblin travels in the realms of Dunsany and Tolkien, painting a grand adventure of humans, elves, intrepid loot mongering adventurers out of the realms of Dungeons and Dragons and of course, trolls and goblins.
The story of Nobody Likes a Goblin, I have to admit, is comparable to Little Robot. A little more verbose, but economically written for the world it takes place in, Nobody Likes a Goblin is set at a young adult to adult ti adult reading level. Brilliantly paced, with action causing reaction in a believable fashion, Ben Hatke, does another stupendous job at bridging the gap between young and older readers. Whimsical in nature, poking playful fun at the fantasy genre in particular, the pacing is excellent, the prose sparse and the character interaction is delightful. The characters are remarkably three-dimensional for this type of work, and very skillfully written, each having a voice of their own, that’s readily grasped. Overall, there can’t be anything negative to be said about the structure (the hero’s journey), the writing or the general cornucopia of ideas this wonderful book shares. The plot takes heed from Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey and this universal feature of storytelling suits Nobody Likes a Goblin a “universal” read.
The artwork in Nobody Likes a Goblin is a phenomenon to behold. The light airy style that graced Little Robot is back again but with renewed enthusiasm. Ben Hatke just has a way with line weights and depictions that are a delight to behold, and remind me of Michael Ploog’s or Walt Kelly’s deftly drawn characters and backgrounds. A master of panel placement, Ben Hatke makes the story flow beautifully; the story can almost be read directly from the artwork, as it should be. The word captions only add icing to the solid foundation of the cake. Minimal use of captions immerses the reader even more into the story, and the artwork is easy on the eye, making this, by far, the best Hatke work I’ve seen. In places, it contrasts the wide open spaces of Little Robot with the confines of the dark places goblins dwell, and I daresay, in some places, it surpasses its predecessor. Ben Hatke has a marvelous jaunt, drawing the different locals, denizens, and people in a much larger cast of characters, and the brilliance in design shows. Characters are readily identifiable and you are never in the dark as to who’s who.
Nobody Likes a Goblin will appeal to the youngest to the oldest discerning adult, and is a brilliantly executed graphic novel. It will appeal to gamers, comic aficionados, fantasy lovers and purveyors of graphic art (not to mention fans of Little Robot). There is something for everyone in this sparkling vestibule of graphic storytelling, and everyone will go home happy. Ben Hatke has pulled off another superlative piece of work here and Nobody Likes a Goblin deserves a place on anyone’s shelf.