Howard Shapiro’s previous hockey graphic novel, The Hockey Saint, released in 2015, looked at the early career of protagonist Jeremiah Jacobson and his desire to become a better person and player. Set ten years later, Jacobson is dealing with the end of his injury-addled career, and is struggling with problems that is getting in the way of his self-fulfilment in Hockey Karma.
The title is in reference to an eye for an eye philosophy that an opposing player holds regarding a hit Jacobson laid on a teammate years prior to the story, but it also reflects the life of Jacobson and how his attempts to give back to the community that he calls home lead him on the path to a better life. Written by Shapiro, and illustrated by Andres J. Mossa, the graphic novel is a vibrant look at the game and at the realities that it sometimes hides.
Shapiro doesn’t hide away from the off-ice pressures that hockey players and self-appointed heroes face. The story is more than just Jacobson’s late career struggles and his fear of being replaced by the next up-and-comer. It’s also the struggles of injury addled players and drug abuse, more timely than ever. Jacobson also has to deal with putting together an ambitious local rejuvenation project to better his community. It shows character growth from his character’s food bank work in The Hockey Saint while at the same time demonstrating how Jacobson’s on-ice play is moving in the opposite direction.
Toss in the addition of a female coach who is on track to win a league championship, and Hockey Karma also is a good platform to address gender roles and expectations in professional sports. The coach, Emma Schell, is treated no differently than a male coach by her players and by Shapiro. The fact that her character isn’t a “very special episode” style character lets the authenticity of Shapiro’s sentiment ring through,
If you’re a fan of graphic novels and would like another fun off-day read, Hockey Karma’s worth the purchase. The novel’s targeted toward a young-adult audience, so if any readers have kids who’re comic book/graphic novel fans, I strongly suggest this one. It’s got a good heart without being moralizing, and it’s something you can feel comfortable handing over to your son or daughter so they’ll have something to read over the upcoming winter break from school.
Even as an adult, there’s a lot to enjoy with Hockey Karma. The artwork is crisp, the writing hums along, and Shapiro’s song suggestions for each chapter are a nice - and diverse - touch. It, like The Hockey Saint, recieves a very well-deserved four and a half stars on Amazon.