It is difficult to write a review of a book like Habibi that will do it justice and I have struggled to put my thoughts about such a complex and hauntingly beautiful story into a blog post. Habibi by Craig Thompson is, at its core, a love story. It encompasses all aspects of love, from maternal to romantic, in a story that occurs in no set place or time. What really captivated me about this book was the way Thompson incorporates Arabic script and Islamic mysticism into his art and story to add depth and beauty to an already complex and emotionally challenging tale.
Though it is a graphic novel, it is not by any means your typical superhero story. Thompson uses amazing imagery to tell the complex story of Dodola, a young woman who is desired for her physical beauty rather than her formidable intellect and fierce personality, and Zam, the young boy that she rescues from slavery and whose inner turmoil drives him to a life of self-destruction and sorrow. Over the course of their lives, these two characters will lose and find each other again, encounter great hardships, and have their freedom taken away by those in positions of power. However, despite the pain and hardships, or maybe because of them, there is always the underlying current of love.
If you have been curious about graphic novels, but have been turned off by the perceived lack of literary merit, Habibi is a great inroad into this growing artform. It is also a fantastic introduction to Islamic art and the founding stories of the religion, things that I had very little exposure to before this book. While you are waiting, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is another graphic novel with great literary and cultural merit.