Giant Days Vol. 1
Comic book series by John Allison (creator and writer), Lissa Treiman (illustrator), Whitney Cogar (colors), Jim Campbell (letters)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Release Date: December 1st, 2015
Giant Days is a comic book series written by John Allison as a spin-off of his webcomic "Scary Go Round." It stars three young women in their first year at university: Susan Ptolemy, med student and resident snarker; Ester DeGroot, pale upbeat goth who radiates drama; and Daisy Wooton, whose naïveté seems to land her in all sorts of trouble. Together, they square off against the adversities of college life, while never actually cracking open a school book.
I didn't know what to expect from this title, but it had been buzzing around since it started being released in 2015. My fear was that it would be a traditional coming-of-age-tale, which is not one of my favorite subjects. What I discovered was a laugh-out-loud hilarious (seriously, I laughed out loud while reading it) and gorgeously rendered story.
The volume is, unfortunately, quite short, clocking in at about 128 pages and only consisting of four comics total. These "chapters" each have their own individual story arc, with some elements continuing between them. The first is an introductory episode, and the remaining issues deal with illness, misogyny, and a birthday gone wild.
What makes Giant Days so special is the one-two punch of John Allison's dialogue and Lissa Treiman's art. The characters are entertaining on their own, but their banter when they're together is quick, witty, and full of heart. The characters are fluid and kinetic, filled with so much energy that they practically move around the page, even when they're just relaxing. It's Treiman's art that pushes the comic from "good" to "fantastic." It's a style that easily switches between realistic and seriousness to comic and silly with ease depending on the story's tone. All of the characters have unique designs that are kept consistent even while their faces and bodies contort wildly with their emotions. Treiman works for Disney Animation, and it's easy to see why the Mouse would want her talent on board. Her style, mixed with Cogar's exuberant coloring, is beautiful to behold, and compliments the story perfectly.
The stories themselves are not complex. Rather it's the character's intensity that gives the stories weight. Usually they are about mundane situations that seem like the end of the world to our heroines, or important situations that maybe, in retrospect, should have been a bigger deal. It's peculiar that the topics that are broached in this comic are so intense on their own, yet are taken with such grace or are resolved so quickly that they almost seem like non-issues. For example, there is an absolutely fantastic ending to how the ladies tackle a chauvinistic website publishing risqué pictures of students, but the issue that deals with the fallout of Susan's "magazine" wrongfully accusing a character of misogyny does not seem to have as satisfactory a conclusion, nor does it (at this point in the story) have any real consequences. Speaking of consequences, Daisy deals with accidental drug overdoses not once, but twice in the four issue run. Both times are played for laughs, and the untroubled reactions to these were unsettling. However, Giant Days isn't here to be an after-school special, nor do we want it to be. My observations may be more about my assumptions coming into the book than what it's actually about: three young women trying to navigate the messy and chaotic experience that is Growing Up.
I see that I'm wrong to have my initial doubts about the book, and I should have put more faith into the same publishing studio that brought us the comic book version of Adventure Time and the always superb Lumberjanes. I highly recommend picking up a copy online or through your friendly local comic shop. I might return to Giant Days later with their next volumes, but in the meantime, I'll probably be re-reading this copy again and again.