Penny Brighton is an unapologetic casual smoker, has a neck tattoo of a snake beginning to coil itself around a heart, and reads steamy romance novels with titles like “Succubus Seduced” for fun. When she is fired from her job and is forced to move out, she convinces her best friend, Helen, with coffee (a dash of milk, two sugars, and cinnamon) to get her a job at Helen’s family’s laundromat and let her stay in their storage unit.
Sure, she might not seem that great, but Penny is utterly lovable even when she is a walking fire hazard. Yuko Ota’s art captures Penny’s personality perfectly, helping readers feel sympathetic towards despite the unfortunate series of events that make up her life. Ota’s use of facial expressions and body language is also top class. For example, when Penny realizes she needs to take a shower somewhere, she goes to a local gym and starts flirting with assistant receptionist Walter Erikson, who says he would flirt back with Penny if he was any good at flirting. After challenging Walter to give it his best, we see Penny’s doe-eyed reaction in the background. No, Walter isn’t any good at flirting, but Penny is smitten with his honesty and effort. And when you have a character who is so in love with love, what does it matter if she is slightly callous and mildly manipulative?
This book’s sensibility and its entertaining array of characters, including Helen’s middle-school-aged younger brother who has the mannerisms of a crime boss, Walter’s attractive coterie of female friends, and a calico cat, are comparable to works like Scott Pilgrim. This book will also appeal to a range of readers, from high school students who fantasize about living away from home for the first time to adults who remember the time they stridently wore flip-flops to their first job. Readers who are used to reading full-color comics might find the black and white art disappointing, but most should be pleased with the greytone shading which is used.
Those who like their comics to have a message might want to avoid this one. This book has no big meditations on what it means to be human or the nature of fate or what have you. It does, however, have plenty of synopses of steamy romance novels I only wish existed in real life.
by Ananth Hirsh
Art by Yuko Ota
Oni Press, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: (13+)