For anyone who may doubt how charming and intelligent Giant Days is, know that this issue ends with the line "Do you need to go somewhere and repeatedly fail the Bechdel test?" Not only is this line a great, nerdy reference in its own right, but it's not even the first time John Allison has referenced the Bechdel test for a joke. I don't normally like obvious reference to internet culture, but then again, there's a lot I don't like in comics that Giant Days is somehow making work. Fifteen issues into a planned six-issue mini (for once comics publishers made the right call), Giant Days has settled into a comfortable rhythm that taps into the same witty, comfort food quality that people responded to in Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and Scrubs. While I may have just outed myself as a lover of sitcoms, let's ignore that for the moment and explore issue sixteen of Giant Days. This issue deals in three primary plots: Daisy is tasked with leading a college tour that quickly goes off the rails, Esther sets out to solve her money problems, and Susan takes up internet dating with predictably mixed results. I admire immensely Allison's dedication to telling a full story in the space of one issue, and the script for this issues is paced brilliantly. The issue starts and ends with the three girls together and manages in the middle to balance all three though a series of carefully interwoven sequences. The way the issue manages to jump from Daisy's frazzled tour, to an awful date with Susan to an Esther brainstorming session and then back without feeling awkward or giving too little time to any story element is frankly most praiseworthy because you don't really notice it happening.
I recently saw Giant Days accused of being inconsequential, and it is the case that the stories are light and don't always have a huge lasting effect on the characters. However, it's a rare quality to have a book with consistently written set of likeable characters even if it doesn't necessarily have a huge sense of forward momentum. In this issue, for example, the Esther and Daisy plotlines show a little character growth but are mainly extended characters gags. But Susan's dates, which could be two dimensional parodies of dating culture, instead end up being three decent, flawed guys who end up highlighting for Susan and the reader, just how far she is from being over McGraw. It's all warm and silly with fairly low stakes, but making things too dramatic or momentous would rob the book of its basic conceit, that this world and its denizens are loveable and occasionally witty but more than a little silly (i.e. college students).
Speaking of silly, let's talk about Max Sarin's artwork. It's about time I stopped missing Lissa Treiman and started recognizing the loopy, squiggly charm of Sarin's new stylings. Every part of Sarin's characters burst with energy. If Daisy feels hopeful, light from heaven shines down upon her like a halo. If Esther feels dejected, her body takes on a blocky hunched quality that I think in retrospect I may have for most of my day. I still dislike how flat and simple the backgrounds are (mostly just blocky colored shapes, never with much detail ore design flair), but it's hard to ignore that Sarin is complimenting Allison's script nicely. In other words, despite my declaration above, I may never fully get over the departure of Treiman, but plain and simple, Sarin's art is working very well.
I deeply love Giant Days and I've not spent one review and one essay trying to explain why and I don't know that I totally have. It's funny and sweet (and a hell of a lot less twee than it has any business being), but it's also, as any great book is, extremely specific. Allison is writing a certain well defined group of characters in a specific quirky way aided by the appropriate style of Max Sarin. It's a book with a voice and an energy all to itself and, while that probably means it won't be for everyone, for those like me who have been won over by its charms, issue sixteen is a pleasant reminder that the book continues to fire on all cylinders.
[su_box title="Score: 4/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]