The previous reviewer for Help Us! Great Warrior on this very site was left consistently uninterested in the series, and gave it low reviews. I’m here to tell him, publicly, that he is a drunk, a layabout, and a wastrel and I will challenge him to fisticuffs at any given time or place*, because this book totally jams. Great Warrior’s friends have just discovered that Great Warrior is the daughter of the Demon King (who is actually her mother), so not only is Great Warrior’s mom a demon, Great Warrior is a demon. The Demon King reveals her nefarious plan for the Chaos Door--basically a god-mode version of the portal that she used to enter the real world.
This story is a clever undermining of the Hero’s Journey--each step Great Warrior takes is preceded by someone almost literally shouting at her “AND NOW YOU MUST STEP BEYOND THE THRESHOLD INTO A DIFFERENT WORLD” or some such nonsense. The fun here is being in on the joke and watching her still have to go through the motions. Madelein Flores is using the traditional structure of a story like this to stand it on its head and make it about a woman who just wants to hang out with her friends with their soft hands and eat copious amounts of pizza.
BOOM! Box has made its business in the last year or so to live in that liminal space between all-ages books and books for knowing, nostalgic adults. Check out the BOOM! Box Mixtape that came out at the tail end of last year and try to make a case for Punk Rock Grandma being for actual children. It might be silly enough for them, but it has a certain wry attitude about the medium that pushes it over the edge into the territory of not being inappropriate for children, but also acknowledging that they’re not the target audience.
The stylistic flourishes are what make this book for me. On its surface, it could be just a funny character from a webcomic strip making a transition to an extended narrative, but it manages to be more than that. Flores includes winks and nods to traditional action sequences in western comics, and her paneling reminds me a lot of manga, with its askew angles and pages composed of triangles and pentagons instead of squares and rectangles.
And, honestly, speaking as a mid-twentysomething who has spent entirely too much time on Tumblr, or debating whether I can live with just getting a medium pizza when I want and can’t afford a large, Great Warrior is my kind of hero. She’s extremely capable but she’s stuck in the inertial cycle of trying to grow up: she’s capable of the heroism she displays, you just really have to make her try, and sometimes her mom has to show up and shame her. Been there, girl.
Help Us! Great Warrior is the kind of self-aware comic that we can all quickly read and enjoy. It’s not earth-shattering, but that’s never been the point. It’s a fun “Further Adventures of Great Warrior” expansion to the webcomic, and it makes me all the more excited for whatever Flores is going to do after this. I’ll see you all next month for the conclusion.
*I am not joking about this, Habet, it’s been too long since there was a good old-fashioned bullpen-clearing brawl at the Comic Bastards office.