In 2017, the cast of Giant Days found themselves tested by new relationships and new surroundings. This gave the series a stakes-raising dramatic undercurrent, as writer/creator John Allison and artists Max Sarin (pencils), Liz Fleming (inks) and Whitney Cogar (colors) teased the breakup of best friends Esther, Susan and Daisy.
On one level, this is hardly surprising. Collectively, the trio are Giant Days‘ three-headed protagonist, and threatening that friendship is one of the more obvious ways to hold readers’ interest. Regardless, the creative team has played out the year’s various subplots seamlessly, pulling comedy and pathos organically from choices rooted in character. The search for stable housing drove much of the overarching plot, as the trio of friends dealt with their beaten-down rental while their male counterparts McGraw and Ed sparred with their own oblivious roommate.
More importantly, though, the question of who would live with whom loomed large as the year drew to a close. Daisy’s romance with the aloof Ingrid forced her to choose between passion and friendship, while Susan wondered whether she and McGraw should move in together. Again, these weighty concerns were balanced against hilarious vignettes like an off-the-rails dinner party, Ed’s doomed coffee maker, Susan’s trip home for Christmas and Esther’s various interventions (an online wedding, a corporate protest, an academic rival). None of it felt forced or perfunctory. In fact, the creative team has done such a good job with its cast that these troubles only seem bad for the future of the series, not the characters.
Giant Days, part of BOOM! Studios’ BOOM! Box imprint, was one of 2017’s best comics not just for investments in its characters, but because Allison, Sarin, Fleming and Cogar built their stories with solid fundamentals. The series’ origins as a webcomic survive in print form, as Allison paces every page to a punchline (or other cathartic release), keeping a constant comic rhythm going throughout each issue. Sarin and Fleming have expanded upon Allison’s character designs to great effect, ranging from exaggerated expressions to outright caricature and playing perfectly off the dryly witty dialogue. Meanwhile, Cogar’s colors keep everything light for the most part, dipping into unusual hues and tones if there’s a dream sequence or someone’s made some especially pungent sauerkraut. This is not soap opera for its own sake, but a well-mannered comedy which knows exactly when to go over the top. (2017 also demonstrated this well with the Giant Days 2017 Holiday Special, a romcom-y trip to London guest-starring Scary Go Round‘s Shelley Winters and featuring manga-esque art from Jenn St-Onge and colors from Sarah Steran.)
At its core, Giant Days is a story of friendship. Ed still has a crush on Esther, Susan and McGraw have their ups and downs and Daisy might have to push away her first real love; but in 2017 they moved beyond the trials and errors of college life into an even more uncertain world. While this was a year of unmistakable change for Giant Days, it also offered a deeper insight into each of these characters, potentially strengthening them for what’s to come. In doing so, the creative team treated them as real people with relatable problems, and showed them growing perhaps beyond the bounds of what is still an excellent sitcom setup.
Giant Days was one of 2017’s best comic books because it showed how its cast could be true to themselves, even as they thought that might betray their friendships. That’s a heck of a balancing act, but Allison, Sarin, Fleming and Cogar pulled it off with style, and in very funny fashion to boot. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for Esther, Susan and Daisy in 2018.
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