Review published on June 1, 2017.
A humble street cleaner, Herman has a startling secret: at night he transforms into an imposing cloaked figure who wanders the city narrating his actions and thoughts aloud! When indie film director Mio chooses to film her next project in Herman’s town, he decides to audition for a part, revealing his secret side for the first time. Herman’s life is about to change…
Chris W. Kim’s debut graphic novel Herman by Trade is really good! I liked how unusual the story was. Some indie artists can get a bit carried away with making their story too avant-garde and therefore inaccessible, but Kim manages to keep his story both coherent and pleasingly unusual.
It’s an unpredictable read because it’s completely original – I’ve never read anything like it before. There’s also this weird sense of unease throughout that drew me in, possibly because of Herman’s strange powers. The book definitely has a dream-like quality to it, walking the line between realism and fantasy. Kim’s wiry pencils are superb as well, complementing the unreal atmosphere with imaginative imagery, contrasting flagrant pageantry with an increasing, vague sense of doom and chaos.
The story also has a great, if slightly banal, point about identity: that there’s more to people than their appearances. Herman can imitate everyone but, in portraying everyone, the end product loses its zest; individuality and personality are lost in the process as Herman can only portray the surface, and not the soul, of a person. At least, that’s what I made of it. The finale itself is a little weak and forgettable.
Herman by Trade was a very enjoyable book and a promising start by this talented new creator. Definitely worth a look for any indie comics fans.
Noel Thorne 4/4
Herman by Trade by Chris W. Kim
SelfMadeHero 9781910593288 hbk May 2017