Barbara Thorson is a loner. A misanthrope. A girl with a very caustic personality. And she's only in the fifth grade. Oh, yes, and she kills giants.
Problem is, nobody else sees what she sees. Everyone treats her as a freak, and she reacts violently to the counselor, Mrs. Molle, when she tries to find out a little more about Barbara. It takes the friendship of a new girl in town, Sophia, to start breaking Barbara out of her shell....
But is that for the best? Are the giants Barbara claims to kill really real? Is Barbara really just suffering from some kind of mental breakdown, caused by some kind of family trauma? And what does baseball have to do with it?
An excellent work, I Kill Giants starts weird, gets crazy, then gets Crazy Awesome, and then goes straight into heartwarming. Read it if you need something to read.
A film version was released in September 2017, starring Madison Wolfe as Barbara and Zoe Saldana as Mrs. Molle. It is to be released on streaming platforms in 2018.
- Adults Are Useless: Averted. Barbara sees them and everyone else as stupid and useless, but they're all trying to be as useful as they possibly can. Mrs. Molle actively tries to reach out to Barbara and the teachers address student misbehavior accordingly. Perhaps the only useless thing they've done is somehow not intervening in Taylor's bullying for this long, considering they're intervening with Barbara.
- An Aesop: To quote, "For those fighting their own giants, you are stronger than you think."
- Animesque: The art style is reminiscent of older manga comics.
- Berserk Button: If you value your face, do NOT mention Barbara's mother. Or her cancer.
- Big "SHUT UP!": In the movie and comic, Barbara slaps Mrs. Molle before storming out of her office after she brings up baseball in their word game. Naturally, Mrs. Molle calls home and Karen is pissed that she's getting calls from work about Barbara causing trouble. Fortunately, Mrs. Molle didn't tell the principal, preventing Barbara from getting any worse punishment, however, as the comic stresses that Mrs. Molle only gives favors once.
- Bittersweet Ending: Barbara comes to terms with her mother's illness and makes amends with her before she passes away, leaving her saddened, yet able to move on.
- Dark Is Not Evil: The Titan, who was initially built up to be the Big Bad, is actually trying to help Barbara come to terms with her mother's impending death.
- Deadpan Snarker: Barbara.
- Disappeared Dad: Barbara's father, for reasons not said but he's been out of the picture for a long time.
- Disney Death: Barbara, in an apparent Heroic Sacrifice.
- Disproportionate Retribution: When Taylor tries to kill Barbara because of the punishments for beating up the latter.
- Drop the Hammer: Barbara's supposed weapon, called Coveleski. When she finally unleashes it, things go boom.
- Eyes Always Shut: Barbara's mother when we first and last see her. The assumption as to why this is might have something to do with her illness.
- In the movie, Barbara's mother just lightheartedly says that she's scared to open her eyes in case Barbara finally coming to see her is just a dream.
- Elevator School: The school where Barbara and Sophia go to, from what's implied. Averted in the movie, where it is shown to be a regular middle school.
- Fat Bitch: Taylor, the school bully. She's also the Alpha Bitch who tends to bully Barbara the most. Averted in the movie, where she's skinny.
- Girlish Pigtails: Sophia and Barbara are seen wearing these in the end as an Expository Hair Change.
- Good All Along: The titan really just wants to help Barbara come to terms with her mother's cancer.
- Greek Mythology: Referenced when Barbara talks to Sophia about the origins of the giants.
- Ill Girl: Barbara's mother, who is ill with cancer. Towards the end, she passes away.
- Imaginary Friend: Barbara has a bunch of them... or does she?
- Internal Reveal: After Barbara gets beat up and awakens upstairs, Sophia sees... something in another bedroom upstairs. She saw Barbara's bedridden mom.
- Jerkass: Barbara acts pretty assholish, though not nearly as much as the girls who bully her.
- Little Professor Dialog: Barbara speaks in this.
- Meganekko: Barbara, as pictured above.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's never clear if what's going on is real or all in Barbara's head. The ending implies that the titan may have been real.
- Norse Mythology: A consistent theme throughout. From Barbara's last name (Thorson, explaining her Weapon of Choice), to the fact that she inscribes a Norse rune on the handbag she constantly carries.
- Odd Friendship: Barbara and Sophia, as the former is pretty caustic and something of a misanthrope, while the latter is shyer and more pleasant, if a little misguided.
- Parental Abandonment: Barbara's dad's gone and, at the end, her mother dies.
- Promoted to Parent: Karen, Barbara's sister. This is made especially the case when at the end, she's old enough to be Barbara and her brother's legal guardian, after their mother die.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Ms. Molle tries to be this. She understands Barbara's plight, however, besides guiding her through it, she can't do much. This emphasized a bit when she allows the latter a pass for slapping her, which would have gotten her suspended. Of course, Ms Molle tells her that she can only have one pass.
- Rule of Symbolism: Barbara (along with the reader) tends to, for the most part, see her cancer-ridden mother as a monster and doesn't like to go upstairs, the which symbolizes her fear and denial. When she accepts what's coming and goes upstairs, she finally sees her mother as a human woman.
- This Is Reality: In the movie, after Barbara runs away from school during a storm in the climax, Mrs. Molle finds her on the beach and tells her to face reality: Her mother is sick and dying, and she wants to see her daughter. This happens a little earlier in the comic.
- Title Drop: Barbara proclaims this to Sophia.
- Unusual Ears: Barbara wears three different pairs of Animal Eared Headbands throughout: cat, what looks like mouse or bear and, most commonly, bunny ears, making her look a little bit like Haruko Haruhara (It doesn't help that the art style is a little similar). The headbands also help to visually distance her from all the other characters and emphasize how much of an outsider she is. A photo from when her mother was still healthy shows that she wasnt always this way, and she ditches them in the ending.
- Weapon of Choice: Coveleski, a warhammer. In real life (or unenchanted?), it's a hand-sized pickaxe made of a stick for a handle and an animal skull for a blade.
- Younger Than They Look: Taylor and at least a few of her lackeys (the former especially) in particular look rather similar to teenagers for girls that are supposed to be in the fifth or sixth grade. However, it is possible that they may have been held back a grade (given some of their record, especially Taylor's) with it being an Elevator School or they only look the way they do because that is how Barbara perceives them.
Specific to the film
- Adaptation Expansion:
- The dinner scene from the first issue where Karen yells at her siblings is split into two scenes in the movie. The first scene is placed at the beginning and Doug is the one who slams his hand onto the pan, while the second scene is in the middle and has Karen slam her hand on the table while scolding Barbara.
- Karen's job is brought up, in which her boss wants to give her a promotion out of pity for her. Karen rejects it because it would mean more work and less time to take care of her siblings and mother, but Barbara accuses her of not having a backbone.
- Barbara goes to Mrs. Molle's house and meets her husband and baby girl before running off.
- Adapted Out:
- In the movie, the scene where Barbara tells the class that "I kill giants." at the beginning of the comic is adapted out, which lessens the Book-Ends impact of her telling the class that her summer was simple at the end, a scene that was kept in the movie.
- In the fight with the Titan, Barb is the only one who is around to see it.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Taylor is fat in the original comic, while, here, in the movie, she's slimmer. This was lampshaded with Barbara's insult mentioning her to be skinny.
- Composite Character: Slightly, tying into the above entry, Taylor, along with being slimmer, more resembles her lackey (the one with braided pigtails) from the comic.
- Dramatic Drop: In the movie, Sophia drops her glass of water when she sees what's upstairs.
- Foil: In the movie, Barbara meets Mrs. Molle's husband and baby daughter, but seeing Mrs. Molle comfort her daughter causes her to run off in distress. Barbara's own mother is bedridden and dying.
- Resentful Guardian: Played with. In one scene, Karen breaks down and asks Barbara, "Do you have any idea what I do for you?!", which suggests she's more overwhelmed than resentful.