The shape of Daisy, Esther and Susan's quest in John Allison and Max Sarin's "Giant Days" #14 is very simple: apartment-hunting. The pitfalls they encounter are all typical: poor timing, bad market, bad neighborhoods, overbearing landlords, negligent landlords and competing loyalties. Allison makes all of it funny through his characters' appalled reactions and also with small, absurd details, while the artwork reaches new heights.
In part, the artwork's improved quality is due to Liz Fleming, whose inking has greater variation and thus greater expressive capabilities than Sarin's own inks in earlier issues. The difference between "Giant Days" #7 and the two most recent issues is immediately noticeable.
Sarin's timing and linework also feel more confident, now rivaling Lissa Treiman's run on the first six issues. The artwork feels perfectly in sync with Allison's script. Daisy's face as she lifts an iron is an early high point. The curls of steam are pretty and reinforce the puffiness of her hair while amplifying her anger and exasperation, acting like a temporary lion's mane. Whitney Cogar's color palette also keeps the reader's eye on Daisy. The caramel brown of her hair and the yellows in her clothes are an attractive contrast to the light aqua of the steam. Likewise, Jim Campbell's letters have just the right amount of bolding to convey a rise in volume without disturbing the flow of dialogue.
Allison's dialogue is as strong as usual, and his phrasing and punctuation (or lack thereof) capture colloquial rhythms of thought and conversation. The best example is when Daisy drags Susan out of class, with Susan protesting "No Stop Stop This is Too Fascinating Wait No Daisy Stop I Love The Shoulder Lecture." The joke is completed by Sarin's facial expressions and body language for Susan and the other students.
The setbacks that the girls face are more-or-less predictable, but none of the jokes feel old. Sarin draws different facial expressions as the girls flee from apartment after apartment. Sarin and Cogar are especially clever with the first rejectee; Sarin's wavy lines and Cogar's acidic colors combine for a psychedelic look that conveys both sound vibrations and drug use.
Mid-issue, the action takes a more serious turn when Esther is tempted by an offer to betray her friends. Again, this is a familiar and realistic scenario, and Allison's plot has quick twists, maximizing the comedy of Esther's decision-making. Sarin's symbolism, page layout, faces and gestures are so strong that the gist of the bathroom scene is clear without words. For example, the devil-Esther moves her hand in an arc for a flourish full of stars, which are echoed by the stars in Esther's eyes.
The narrative tension builds up to a suitably ridiculous fight for the climax. The fight is worth it just for the panel where Susan bares a mouth full of shark-like teeth, but this is topped by the two panels in which Esther gets the best of Dean Thompson.
"Giant Days" #14 is a great welcome-back for Esther after her flirtation with dropping out in the previous issue. The story is nearly self-contained, too, and thus friendly to new readers. It's a good jumping-on point for those who may hear of the title from its recently announced Eisner nomination.