Full disclosure, I am not a comic book fanatic. Very recently I decided to pop my comic book cherry with Saga because of Nina’s review and realized that I am just not interested in typical superhero comics. Norman, by Stan Silas, is anything but a typical superhero comic. Originally written in French, and translated by Ivanka Hahnenberger, there is no humor or entertainment lost in translation.
As the tagline states, Norman is an 8-year old-murderer, and we don’t waste much time getting right into it. Book One opens with poor, doomed Jeremy calling his mom to tell her he’ll be home late (never) while pedaling out to the countryside to pawn off his raffle tickets to some unsuspecting natives. Unfortunately for Jeremy, he happens to be the unsuspecting person in this situation and after being sabotaged by barbed wire, wanders to a farmhouse with an inexplicable zombie sucking down orange juice pouches from the fridge. Shortly after, he realizes he’s been set up, and we get our first glimpse of Norman, the masked murderer who is seriously the cutest thing ever… if you’re into homicidal children.
Silas does a great job of not making the murder scenes too incredibly gory. Everything has a very cartoonish appearance, even the violence. If you can call murder cute, and in this case I do, these are the cutest little murder scenes I’ve ever read.
After this “cold open” introducing us to psychotic little Norman, we get a glimpse at this dysfunctional town he inhabits. From the unexplained school raffle that is VERY serious to Miss Jameson (the student’s inappropriately dressed and somewhat desperate teacher) to the interesting array of kids, this town is crazy. Norman runs into a little trouble attempting to cover up Jeremy’s disappearance when the note Norman wrote is read by the teacher and he tries to play it cool, he ends up making quite the overdramatic scene.
The class has a decidedly Peanuts feel to it, if Charlie Brown were a homicidal killer and Linus was a cross-dressing and closeted gay kid (Owen). There is even Sylvia (the Pigpen of the group), a dirty and potentially homeless student who is completely (and hilariously) shunned by the rest of the class. We meet Norman’s little floating purple friend, who is kind of like the devil on his shoulder meets Hobbes.
In addition, we meet the Grace Club, comprised of the rich, blonde Grace; Alice, a bespectacled brunette and Grace’s lapdog; and Olga, the curly-haired ginger comic relief. These three are Veronica Mars wannabes and they have decided to solve the mystery of the missing Jeremy. They start interviewing classmates, eventually ending up with Norman in the sandbox enjoying his lunch, which happens to be a Jeremy sandwich. Literally. This brings us to the classic “cover a murder with a murder” problem that many fictional killers seem to run into.
One of the great things about this story is that the characters and their actions are so off-the-wall and inexplicable that by the time you get introduced to the clones (yes, I said clones) you aren’t even surprised at the insanity that inhabits this little town. You may be asking yourself where clones fit into the story of an 8-year-old homicidal maniac, but I guarantee when you are reading the story, it all makes perfect sense. It actually seems normal, because… why not clones?
In the end, this story weaves its way through another murder, a séance complete with Ouija board, and a kid running laps naked as punishment. What more could you want in a comic? Granted, if traditional superhero comics are your thing, then Norman might not be for you. If you like dark, dry humor with a dash of classic horror villains like Jason and Freddy, then you will enjoy Norman. It’s a fairly quick read that will keep you laughing from the first page to the last revelation. Book One leaves us entertained and eagerly awaiting what’s in store for Norman in the future.