John Allison, best known as the webcartoonist of Scary Go Round and Bad Machinery (also available in a series of books from Oni Press), is now writing Giant Days, a print comic from Boom! Box. (You can find out more about his various projects at his website.) Issue #15 is out this Wednesday, June 1, and since they all contain satisfyingly complete stories (although with continuing events tracing the passage of the school year), you can start with it.
Or you can try the first collection, Giant Days Volume 1, which contains the first four issues at a bargain price, with art by Lissa Treiman. Giant Days is the story of Susan, Esther, and Daisy, new college students and friends. This is one of my favorite kinds of comics, the fictional slice-of-life.
The three women don’t have amazing heroic abilities or space-roaming fantastic adventures; instead, the entertainment comes from seeing the relationships among them and their acquaintances as the daily incidents of college life take place. Although they do tend to have a slight air of the unreal about it all. But that’s college, right, a time when anything and nothing could happen?
Daisy is frizzy-haired and naive, Esther is goth-like and surprisingly attractive to drama, and Susan is sarcastic and scheming and fierce. There’s also Ed, a nice nerd who has a crush on Esther. In the first issue, the girls bet Esther can’t go three days without causing an issue, while Susan runs into someone she used to know. Allison does a wonderful job establishing personalities through dialogue and coming up with interesting occurrences, while Treiman’s figures are beautifully animated in their movements and expressions.
Also in this volume, the women get sick with the flu and react in various highly entertaining ways: Esther suffers, Daisy tries some unusual treatments, and Susan struggles with not smoking. The three take down an annoying lad website and celebrate Daisy’s birthday. But it’s the details that make it so involving to read. I quickly found myself caring about and rooting for the trio, even when they’re making silly (but age-appropriate) mistakes.
As the series continued (extended from six issues to twelve to an ongoing), Max Sarin took over the art, while Treiman continued creating the covers. Volume 2 is where that switch took place, with Treiman illustrating the first two chapters (issues #5-6) and Sarin the rest (issues #7-8). Sarin has a thinner line than Treiman and tends to use a bit more exaggeration, but they’re still recognizably the same characters and settings.
The volume opens with a school dance, which requires finding the right outfit and coming to terms with feelings before leaving for winter break. There’s a visit to Susan’s hometown and worry over exams, complicated by the question of whether new romances will come between the friends. A lot of these interactions made me think Giant Days is the modern Archie, albeit with a slightly older cast. They’re teen-focused stories that younger readers can use to dream about when they’re old enough to go to university, and older readers can use to fondly remember their time in college.
Volume 3 (issues #9-12) will be out in October. Ed’s begun working with the school newspaper to get his mind off his unattainable crush, and his editor has a conspiracy theory about the rich, entitled student union president. Meanwhile, Esther’s got a crazy friend from back home visiting, while Susan gets caught up in elections and forgetting to sleep. The hallucination-influenced sleep deprivation panels are particularly interesting, artistically. To recover, the friends go camping to get away from it all.
Issue #13 is a glimpse into where Esther came from, as she deals with fallout from breaking up and becoming an adult. In issue #14, the trio has to figure out housing, and in #15, everyone gets involved in a film-making contest. It’s a bit sillier and a few steps away from where the series began, but funny all the same.
While researching this title, I found out that there were additional Giant Days comics. John Allison put out three self-published issues he drew, available either in print or via ComiXology. They’re just as good a read, and they’re what’s briefly referenced in the first couple of pages of issue #1. (The publisher provided digital review copies.)