Whatever you end up thinking of it, settling in with a comic book as big as Craig Thompson’s Middle Eastern fantasia Habibi is one of the great pleasures of being a comics reader: “That thing you like doing? Now you’re gonna get to do it for a long, long time.”
For fans of good writing about comics, The Comics Journal‘s roundtable discussion of Habibi affords similar pleasures. Over the course of some 10,000 words, a group of critics and scholars comprising Charles Hatfield, Hayley Campbell, Tom Hart, Katie Haegele, Joe “Jog” McCulloch, and Robot 6’s own Chris Mautner tackle nearly every aspect of Thompson’s remarkably fecund book. Jog’s comprehensive look at Thompson’s mysticism-derived structure for the book — probably the most complex such structure used on this scale by anyone other than Alan Moore — makes the roundtable worth a read all on its own. But I also greatly enjoyed the discussion of the influence of Will Eisner; the potential for race to be a more problematic aspect of the book than religion or culture; the tension between depicting exploitation and being exploitative oneself; the question of whether Thompson leaves room for interpretation or puts everything right there on the page… As with Habibi itself, perhaps it’s best just to dive right in and see where it takes you.