As it heads towards twenty issues, John Allison's Giant Days is a book that is undergoing some changes, for better and for worse. A lot has changed since Allison chose to spin the Esther character out from his webcomic into a printed series for Boom! Firstly, the book stretched from a mini to an ongoing, amicably losing original artist Lissa Treiman in the process. As a consequence, the story and character have had to stretch to fit the wider canvass of a story with no ending in sight. But Giant Days is undergoing a deeper change as this changeover happens as well, finding a style that is a little sillier and exaggerated than what came before (an impression bolstered by Max Sarin's playful pencils). This new tone is more in line with Allison's webcomics and is a good deal of fun, but some part of me misses the more contained, slice-of-life tone of the first few volumes.
As with issue sixteen, this month's Giant Days splits the cast apart into three stories--a move which, more apparently than before, weakens the structure considerably. Daisy deals with a mean professor on her archaeological dig project, Esther investigates a shady money-making deal with Ed's flatmate, and Susan deals with the reality of McGraw's new girlfriend. The weakest of these plotlines is Daisy's which sees a setting a little too far removed from the world of the university meet up with a story that doesn't do much to develop Daisy as a character. It has some fun beats but feels fairly disposable. Erin's story is better (as any chance to spend time with Ed is bound to be), but again, the money-making scheme seems to lean towards the zany end of Giant Days. Finally, Susan's story is slight but well-wrought, as she deals with the reality that McGraw has moved on and she has no right to be unhappy about it.
The problem is, these character work best as a whole, moving in and out of each other's orbits constantly like college roommates really do. Splitting them into separate stories makes for some awkward logistic issues (the characters talk to themselves lot) and fractures the setting a bit too much. Frankly, there's no cohesive throughline as the stories are too disparate to add to much. In other words, the book is, in its individual pieces still as charming and warm a read as you'll find anywhere, but the seams are showing a bit more as it goes onward.
Let's take a moment to talk in depth about Max Sarin's art. I've avoided doing so when I've written about Giant Days before mainly because it seems unfair to compare with the work of Lissa Treiman which is ridiculously good. Sarin's work has a certain charm to it, but it is sparse and cartoony in a manner that feels more underdeveloped than I'd like. Characters make exaggerated bugged-out eyes and plasticene facial expression that look straight out of a Looney Tunes short. The backgrounds are sparse, often using a few generic cartoon shapes to imply the world, leaving it feeling a little cheap and unfinished. Don't misunderstand me here, Sarin is talented to be sure and I am likely nitpicking, but coupled with a downtick in the writing for this month, it all feels a bit stretched.
So why then, might one well ask, with all this negative to say, am I giving Giant Days #17 a four out of five rating. Well, Giant Days is, and has been, a breath of fresh air in a medium that can at times feel a bit stale and monotone. That hasn't changed. Giant Days remains witty and firmly rooted in strong characters. The single knock against it which I've tried to get across in this review is that it's not as good as it was at its start. This leaves it as a good book with the constant potential to be a great one. I end Giant Days #17 wanting more, but hoping that next month it might go back to being truly outstanding, which, as any longtime reader knows, it can be.
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Giant Days #17
Writers: John Allison
Artist: Max Sarin
Colorist: Whitney Cogar
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital