Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Giant Days, Volume 1 Review (John Allison, Lissa Treiman)

Giant Days follows three first year students at university: Daisy, home-schooled and naive, the youngest of the group; Esther, a Goth chick who looks identical to Nemi and is getting over her recent breakup with her high-school boyfriend; and Susan, the mother of the group and a med student. In this first book, they get sick, deal with obnoxious lad students running an offensive website, and celebrate Daisy’s 18th. 

Ok, first of all, I am a foolish fool for not listening to everyone who told me this comic is fantastic - Giant Days IS bloody brilliant, I shouldn’t have taken so long to check it out! In my defence I read John Allison’s earlier comic, Bad Machinery, which was ok but not great so I wasn’t sure if Giant Days would be more of that. My problems with Bad Machinery were that the dialogue was too grown-up and witty for the characters who were 12/13 years old, and the stories had this contrived and precious Scooby-Doo-esque quality to them. But Allison could undeniably write really well, it was just a matter of finding the right setup for his style - and he’s found it with this series. 

Giant Days is an improvement over Bad Machinery because the dialogue now fits the characters’ ages - 18 and up - and Allison’s abandoned silly murder mysteries involving football teams for stories naturally suited to the characters. On paper the stories in this first volume sound mundane - getting ill, having a party, love stuff - except Allison’s treatment of them is anything but, showing that he just needs to let the characters be themselves to make the narrative their own rather than forcing them into something that feels artificial.

Tonally, and maybe a little bit with the sometimes over-dramatic presentation, Giant Days is very similar to that other modern masterpiece, Scott Pilgrim, with the characters occasionally breaking the fourth wall/referencing the fact they’re in a narrative (“Flashback! Flashback! Flashback!”). The dialogue is breezy and effervescent and the charming cast are enormously likeable, even the supporting characters like the practical and moustachioed McGraw, and Ed, the everyman, who secretly loves Esther. 

Allison juggles numerous storylines at once so you’re never bored: he sows the mystery of Susan and McGraw’s fraught past while Daisy becomes the surrogate mother of Gordon the woodpigeon’s offspring; Susan’s satirical misandrist publication, Femmist, begins to be taken seriously as Esther hallucinates a room of Santeria priests while in a fever and Daisy experiences her first rave. There’s too much to mention but I loved it all and everything effortlessly fits in with the campus backdrop. It reads like Spaced set on a uni campus! 

Lissa Treiman’s art is wonderfully expressive and gorgeous to behold, all the while selling Allison’s jokes and visually matching the playful humour perfectly. She’s a storyboard artist at Disney whose credits include Wreck-It Ralph and Big Hero 6 so, while this is her first comic, it’s no surprise how well she handles the medium. Whitney Cogar’s colours too are so beautiful and delightfully complements Treiman’s pages. 

Giant Days is a fun, clever, witty, and effortlessly enthralling read that I blew through in a single sitting and closed it wanting more - in other words, it’s a first-rate comic. The creative team are at the top of their game and it’s pure joy to experience. Don’t be like me and put this off - believe the hype, Giant Days is all that!

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