Norman is not your average elementary school student. He watches way too many horror movies, and they’ve given him some bad ideas—namely, murdering his fellow classmates in gruesome, slasher-inspired ways. He’s got an impish little devil that hovers above his shoulder, egging him on and helping him get away with his crimes. He also, inexplicably, has a zombie uncle at home who no longer has the mental faculties to question his nephew’s comings and goings.
A comic book about kids killing kids could, if done properly, offer respectful commentary about the state of the world today. It could, theoretically, dramatize one of dozens of events that are reported in the newspapers every week. It could, if it wanted to, make an honest-to-God statement.
Norman, however, goes a different route. The cutesy cartoonish artwork and the silly jokes in the script make a mockery of the subject matter, and the end result is rather distasteful. It’s easier to look and laugh when the participants are older, but when they’re all pre-adolescents, it makes it much more difficult to stomach. I’m by no means a member of the P.C. Police, but even I found it to be pushing a few boundaries of good taste.
Though I must say, if this subject matter sounds offensive to you, you likely wouldn’t be reading this book. It would be nearly impossible to pick this title up without knowing what you were getting into. The cover proudly exclaims, “I am eight years old and I kill people.” So kudos to them for truth in advertising.
To be honest, I could forgive everything mentioned above, if this were actually a good or entertaining story. Unfortunately, what little charm it begins with quickly dissolves over the course of its 64 pages. It offers a bit of fun trying to spot all of the horror movie references, but we spend far more time with the inane and rambling subplots involving other characters (the pathetic love life of the school teacher; the elitist ramblings of the rich kid clique) than we do with Norman. These little diversions are so random and all over the map that it makes the whole story feel as if the author made it up as he went along.
In a shorter format and with better focus, writer-illustrator Stan Silas may have been able to deliver a solid read, but as it stands, Norman was too erratic and inconsistent to hold my attention for long.
Norman, Book 1 was originally published in Silas’s native French in 2011. Titan Comics, who supplied the advance review copy, will release the English language edition on March 25, 2015, with three additional volumes to follow.