Think back to a pivotal year in your academic life. What do you remember most?
For Esther, Susan, and Daisy—the university freshmen at the center of Giant Days—the thing they’ll remember most might be each other. Giant Days, vol. 2, picks up where the first volume left off: three thrown together best friends finishing their first year at uni. While the characters sometimes hide behind their cynicism and insecurities, they’re as supportive a group as one could hope for!
This volume collects issues 5-8 of the ongoing series and opens with our three protagonists reenacting a classic college scene: scouring the local thrift store for the perfect ensemble. These scenes showing outdated, not quite right pieces of clothing that were once someone’s idea of perfect transforming into beautiful gowns set the reader up to support the cast of characters as they embark on a similar transformation.
Part of what attracted me to this series initially was the art. It’s a little gritty without being over the top, which is appropriate to the working class English setting. Tremain’s original characterizations are spot on; each of the main characters is drawn in a way that communicates their personalities perfectly. Susan’s angular face and hair belies her tendency to be smug and a worldly smarty pants. Daisy’s soft, fluffy hair and wide eyed visage is perfectly in tune with her forays into self-discovery. Esther is pale and waifish, a slight goth-girl who is maybe just playing a role that fits for now.
Tremain’s characterizations plus Allison’s script work together to make the girls come alive for the reader. They’re believable! One of the things that has grown on me with multiple readings is how well Tremain, along with colorist Whitney Cogar, create a sense of setting. Backgrounds and situations—like the dance and dorm room—have just enough detail to make the place read well, but it’s Cogar’s color that adds the emotional power to the scene. Together, the two are able to add an emotional layer to what the characters are doing and saying and connect the whole story to the reader’s emotional core.
Unfortunately, Lissa Tremain finishes her run on Giant Days with issue 6 (half way through this volume), and Max Sarin takes over for issues 7 and 8. While I’m disappointed at this change—I find Sarin’s art a little too clean and crisp—I have high hopes for Sarin’s work and look forward to seeing what happens in the next several issues.
Giant Days is well written, well drawn, and well colored. It’s part bildungsroman and part slice-of-life. Susan, Esther, Daisy, and their friends ask themselves the big questions that are part of the experience of growing up. “Who am I?” “What’s my sexuality?” “Why doesn’t he/she like me?” Our gals also grapple with some bigger issues, too, like “Why do I change myself to be with people I like?” Giant Days will appeal to high school readers and older, though it’s worth mentioning that there is some sex and drug/alcohol use in this series.
I’m excited to see what adventures are next for Daisy, Esther, and Susan at Uni—Will Esther start going to class? Will Susan embrace her new romantic partner? Is love in store for Daisy?— and readers following Giant Days will be reaffirmed in their investment in the series and eagerly await the next installment.
Giant Days, vol. 2
by John Allison
Art by Lissa Treiman, Max Sarin, and Whitney Cogar
Boom! Box, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 16+