While they might not know him by name, it seems as though many kids would want to be Beowulf. The sword battles, the heroic deeds and courageous actions. And then there's the business with slaying a dragon. The legend of Beowulf is one that a little kid can spend hours recreating and embellishing. But there is one boy that never had to pretend to be the hero. This is where Alexis Fajardo and his series of books, Kid Beowulf enter the picture.
As of right now, there are two books available. The first is the origin of our hero, Kid Beowulf and the Blood-Bound Oath, which gives us the backstory of the players who were on the board before Beowulf and his eventual rival (and twin brother) Grendel enter the game, which doesn t happen until two-thirds of the way through the story. The second is the recently released Kid Beowulf and the Song of Roland, which begins the adventures of Beowulf and Grendel as they meet other boys and men who will eventually becomes legends themselves.
Fajardo's work is nothing short of excellent. As a writer, he has a firm grasp on his characters, which allows for turns on a dime from funny to serious without missing a beat. His characters are fully fleshed out and real, even though they are faced with some fantastical problems and some of them aren't even human. Beowulf is the classic boy hero character. He is destined to be a great hero, but at this point in his life, he is unsure of himself and is continuously surrounded by much stronger men, most directly his twin brother, Grendel. In a bit of Shakespearean flavor, Fajardo establishes the two as arguing twins, which is a creative way to play up their eventual battle. The small fights between the two young brothers are tinged with the fact that they will eventually try to kill each other.
And while the stories may be more aimed towards kids, the realities these characters will eventually face are placed front and center at the beginning of each book. The three battles of Beowulf (Grendel, his mother and the vicious dragon), as well as the hero's demise, are the first thing the reader is exposed to at the start of the book. The same goes for the legend of Roland, which also ends with his death in battle. These short pieces are also a testament to Fajardo's work as a penciller, with the art taking a darker, more realistic tone during the opening pages.
Fajardo's art is in the vein of Prince Valiant, but tempered through classic newspaper cartoonists such as Charles Schulz. The action scenes are engaging, as are his character designs. And you can see the Schulz influence through his use of lines. While it may look simple, Fajardo s work is filled with the simple lines that lead to great detail. A strategically placed line can severely alter a drawing and Fajardo knows this and uses it well. He knows that simple does not mean basic, but rather allows the artist to have more options available to them.
The only problem with the art is that it isn t in color. After seeing the cover and its striking colors, it almost feels like a letdown to not see the rest of the book the same way. The bright colors of the cover would have been quite a treat to see fill the pages of the two books.
Fajardo is a great talent and this series is the perfect showcase of his skills. Both Kid Beowulf and the Song of Roland and Kid Beowulf and the Blood-Bound Oath are fun and easy reads, readily accessible and just pretty to look at. They are aimed at younger readers, but anyone who is a fan of Conan the Barbarian or Dave Sims Cerebus can definitely get hooked on these books. The kind of fun Kid Beowulf offers is something that is rarely seen in comics today. It s a series that is enjoyable every page of the way.
About the Author
Alexis E. Fajardo is a student of the classics whether Daffy Duck or Damocles and has created a unique blend of the two in Kid Beowulf. Alexis has taught cartooning throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and currently resides in Santa Rosa, where, when not penning Kid Beowulf, he works for Peanuts at the Charles M. Schulz Studio.