Here­ville: How Mir­ka Met a Meteorite

  • Review
By – February 26, 2013

Bar­ry Deutsch was nom­i­nat­ed for the Eis­ner and Neb­u­la Awards and was the win­ner of the Syd­ney Tay­lor 2010 Award for his graph­ic nov­el How Mir­ka Got Her Sword, the first book in this series. Now his hero­ine, Mir­ka, is back in a sequel. In this nov­el, Mir­ka takes on a me­teorite, who changes her rock-shape into the shape of a human girl or, more accu­rate­ly, into the spit­ting image of Mir­ka her­self, com­plete­ly against Mirka’s wish­es and bet­ter judg­ment. The best girl must win, and a three-part con­test is set to deter­mine which one will stay and which one will be ban­ished from Hereville.

Graph­ic nov­els and super­heroes are not new to Jew­ish authors and read­ers alike. Most notable com­ic cre­ators were Jew­ish; one is imme­di­ate­ly remind­ed of Bob Kane and Bill Fin­ger, the cre­ators of Bat­man, or Jer­ry Siegel and Joe Shus­ter, the cre­ators of Super­man. More­over, super­heroes, who often have civic” alter egos of anti-heroes, are just as pre­dictable in Amer­i­can pop­u­lar cul­ture. And yet most super­heroes, albeit cre­at­ed by Jews, are them­selves very clear­ly not Jew­ish. In this par­tic­u­lar graph­ic nov­el, the nov­el­ty lies in the fact that the hero­ine, her­self, is Jew­ish. And she is not just Jew­ish but a frum Jew who is set against a gen­uine frum social and cul­tur­al back­drop. Mir­ka looks, acts, stud­ies, prac­tices, and fol­lows ultra-ortho­dox Judaism to the let­ter, as do all her town’s friends, rel­a­tives, and coun­ter­parts. And yet she is far from being your aver­age goody ortho­dox girl; she is messy, out­spo­ken, aggres­sive, force­ful, and min­gles with mag­i­cal, or worse, sec­u­lar unsa­vory com­pa­ny; it’s a fab­u­lous moment when, to her com­plete igno­rance, she won­ders why this witch-woman looks and dress­es like that… In oth­er words, as opposed to bas­ing her hero­ism on her alter ego, Mir­ka is both hero and anti-hero rolled into one. 

The con­flict aris­es in the form of a me­teorite who takes upon her­self the earth­ly image of Mir­ka, her­self. But to Mirka’s great shock, what ini­tial­ly seems like a won­der­ful poten­tial sis­ter­hood sit­u­a­tion soon turns into a night­mare. The new­com­er dop­pel­ganger now scores on every­thing Mir­ka does and in no time push­es her out of her fam­i­ly, world, food, school and iden­ti­ty. It is clear to Mir­ka that the only way to defeat this unwel­come invad­er is to come out ahead in the three part con­test she ini­ti­ates for the two of them. It is a hard and bit­ter con­test and one in which results remain uncer­tain until the end. The excit­ing final vic­to­ry includes Mirka’s mon­ster friend from Book 1, tying the two books in the series together. 

It is a shame that the ear­ly-proof copy I reviewed does not include col­ors. The col­or fea­ture would have added a great deal to the visu­al­iza­tion and to the abil­i­ty to enter Mirka’s world and its char­ac­ters. But the book itself is a tri­umph in every sense: the sto­ry­line is grip­ping, the char­ac­ters are inter­est­ing and dimen­sion­al, the plot’s pro­gres­sion thrilling and the draw­ings fab­u­lous (despite the lack of col­or, which left a lot to my antic­i­pa­tion of the final prod­uct). I am intrigued by Mir­ka and am look­ing for­ward to read­ing more about her adven­tures. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 8 – 10.

Noa Paz Wahrman is a Jew­ish stud­ies librar­i­an and bib­li­og­ra­ph­er at Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty in Bloom­ing­ton IN.

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