I knew absolutely nothing about this graphic novel going into it. I saw MK Reed’s name on the cover and was like, “okay let’s give this a shot.” That’s honestly how I pick my books which is pretty weird considering I’m a reviewer and I rely on others to read my review in order to make their decisions, but I know that a vast majority of people that read don’t make their decisions on a whim. Some of the best stories I’ve ever read though were picked up on a whim and I include The Cute Girl Network among them. The thing about this story is that I laughed a lot, but it wasn’t because it was a comedy. This isn’t like some of the other series or issues I’ve talked about that made me laugh due to their off-the-wall humor or shock factor. This is a romantic comedy, but not the kind that Hollywood pumps out. This is a romantic comedy for people like me that watch and wonder why “comedy” was even attached to the descriptor. I found so much of this story relatable and hilarious because it was just slices of life. The characters and their experiences seemed plausible and genuine.
The way I like to describe the story is that it’s about an idiot that knows he’s an idiot and a skater girl that has dealt with the stigma of being a skater girl nearly her entire life. Our idiot Jack works as a street vendor that sells soup. Our skater girl Jane wipes out when she takes her eyes off of the road and hits a bottle cap which sends her to the ground just in front of Jack. He rushes to pick up her board as she’s standing up and they have a quick exchange. He offers her a free drink which she promptly tucks into the back of her pants to ice her coccyx. No names are exchanged and really it’s just a quick chance encounter.
At this point we follow Jane to work at the skate shop she works at. She’s quick to interact with her coworker’s jokes, but it’s not that she’s one of the “guys” but rather she has the same sense of humor. The owner asks her to help a customer, but the dude wants a man’s assistance. The irony of it is that he’s looking to buy a girl a skate board. After that we follow Jane back to her house where her book club is already in session. They’re reading a Twilight-esc story, but really the scene is there to introduce Jane’s friends and poke at the romance genre.
Jack’s day is long and boring so he thinks about the cute girl he encountered and ends up mentioning it to his roommates later that night. His male roommate tells him to be assertive and ask the girl out on a date, but also be specific and have an idea of where you want to go. His female roommate has less aggressive advice, but Jack tells them that it doesn’t matter since he doesn’t even know her name or if he’ll ever see her again.
Well obviously they see each other again and they do start dating, but the conflict of the story arises when one of Jane’s friends sees her with Jack. She knows him because he dated another one of their friends and this begins “The Network.” The Network is a system that her friends developed to help smart single women from wasting their time dating idiots, losers and sleaze bags. Basically if you start dating a guy you put out an ABP on him and the Network will set up meetings with the dude’s ex’s and you can hear their stories. Well Jack’s roommate is a part of the Network and she informs him that they’re looking for info on him. His male roommate is in his corner because he wants him to defeat what he calls, “The Cute Girl Network.” I have I mentioned that I love it when a series can mention it’s title and not have it be really lame or break the fourth wall? I absolute love it.
Frankly if you’ve ever dated as an adult then you’ll probably enjoy this book. I can admit that I share things in common with Jack and that’s what made it humorous for me, but also seeing the other side of things made it more humorous. My wife told me on more than one occasion while reading this story that I was “laughing loudly” which kind of made me laugh more.
The story is extremely charming and offers a different look at dating. This is probably the most relatable romance story that I’ve ever read. It didn’t have a ridiculous premise or end with the characters chasing each other across the globe just to get married. Sure the “Network” seems like a goofy idea, but not really. With our digital era it’s actually quite easy to have a network like this and I wouldn’t be surprised if ones existed… I’m sure there’s an app or something.
While the story was great, what really sold all the jokes and created the heart of the tale was the artwork. The artwork is alive. I believed in Jack’s clumsiness, but also his good intentions. Jack says numerous times that Jane is awesome and I believed that as well. She does kick all kinds of ass especially when she tells off a skater guy that questions if she can skate or not, who then after seeing her skills asks her out. The artwork did more than visually bring about the narrative it created the entire world. Even an abstract idea like “The Network” came across as a physical object. My brain instantly pictured a series of texts going out and various women responding to it and that wasn’t in the book. It was just from the powerful expressions of the characters that my brain was able to see it. Physical humor in comics is difficult to do. It’s like an action scene, it needs to be easy to follow, but end with a punchline. There is tons of physical humor in this story which means that there are tons of punchlines as well.
If you read this review then that means that you won’t be randomly picking up this book and going in without a clue as to what to expect. I doubt that will change your enjoyment and it might even set you up to enjoy it more. All I know is that the romantic comedy genre is severely lacking in the world of comics/graphic novels and so this was a welcomed edition to a genre I enjoy. Hopefully Hollywood will also take a cue and stop pumping out the same script with a different setting and produce something that’s half as good as The Cute Girl Network.
Writers: Greg Means and MK Reed Artist: Joe Flood Publisher: First Second Books Price: $17.99 Release Date: 11/12/13 Website