Drama tends to get more interesting when the heroes get what they want at the end of the story, but not in a way they expected. If every romantic comedy started with a man chasing after a woman, and through a series of very small hurdles, he wins her affection: that’s boring (notwithstanding that now the original formula has become so apparent that romcoms have to be upended to be interesting). Help Us! Great Warrior was always a book about simple needs and dire obstacles, and is truly a story of Great Warrior getting the thing she wants in a way she never expected. I won’t recap the plot here because, for a limited series, revealing the plot of the final issue seems to do it a disservice. Rather, let’s talk about thematic unity, especially in a series that’s nominally all-ages. People tend to associate simplicity of story with all-ages books, and look down on these kinds of stories as a result. This is a mistake. Many much more “complex” stories are complex because they lose their message in the middle and go wildly off the rails. In six issues, Help Us! Great Warrior hasn’t had the opportunity to go off the rails, and it kept the jokes coming while breaking our hearts, little by little.
The book starts out as a book about a Great Warrior who just wants to take a nap and not have to protect the world from demons, and it ends the same way; along the way, incredibly high stakes play out against our hero. She finds herself adrift, trying to fight alone, keeping her charges out of harm’s way. She finds victory by letting them believe in her and letting them help her; she finds herself and her true destiny not by solo action, but by becoming a member of a community. When she learns to let people help her, instead of forcing Leo and Hadiyah to sit out while she fights alone, she finds her victory. All she wanted was to take a nap and keep her villagers safe; in the end, she finds a way to do both, in a way she had not expected.
Help Us! Great Warrior is especially impressive in terms of gender representation: it’s full of badasses and never feels the need to be apologetic about having no male characters. As far as I can tell, I don’t mean no named male characters--I mean nothing male about it. This is about the foibles and victories of women, and what they can accomplish when they work together. It’s a strong statement about strong women, and it does it without falling into tropes like the Perfect Female Hero (Great Warrior’s entire first issue is about her resistance to fighting until her cake is threatened). This is a book that celebrates imperfections as a natural part of existence; Great Warrior can’t escape the evil influence of her mother, she has to embrace those imperfections in order to become better than her mother ever was.
I could go on at length about Help Us! Great Warrior and what a breath of fresh air it’s been, but instead, like a teenager handing out his first mixtape, I will tell you this: Read this book. It’ll change your life.