John Allison’s Giant Days is one of the best slice of life comics today. The series won the 2016 Eisner award for Best Continuing Series and it won Allison the Best Writer award at the same time. The ongoing adventures of Sheffield University students Susan, Esther and Daisy have a great reputation, but how good is Giant Days Vol. 8?
Vol. 8 takes place towards the end of the girls’ second year at Sheffield University and focuses on three of the most important things for young students: romance, reputation and really high energy bills. Young love is the core of this volume, with several relationships coming, going or carrying on regardless. Daisy tries to help Ed find love with a kindred spirit in a brilliant tangent involving awkwardness, doubt, uncertainty and a Buck Rodgers remake. Ed’s date and fear of letting things take their course is really endearing as Ed is too afraid of letting go of the longest of long shots with Esther. Then we have McGraw and Susan rekindling their relationship with McGraw breaking things off with Emilia. The breakup scene with McGraw and Emilia is incredibly well done and one of the most impressive things in this volume.
The main story though is Daisy’s relationship with Ingrid. Ingrid is arguably the closest thing to a long term antagonist that Giant Days has had. She’s not so much an antagonist in the dramatic sense; she’s more like the kind of antagonists that we experience in everyday life. Someone who constantly irritates and rubs you the wrong way. The balance between respecting Daisy’s first relationship and putting up with Ingrid is a constant source of drama and humor.
For me one of the strongest defining features of Giant Days is its sense of humor, and it’s in top form with this volume. I love how the sense of humor veers from the silly and the surreal to sharp and sometimes biting, all while being driven by the personalities and foibles of the characters. Allison has assembled a great core cast and he really knows how to use them to generate both humor and pathos. McGraw, the well mannered young man with a serious DIY fixation may be one of my favourite characters in comics right now.
It’s not just Allison who deserves the credit for the humor, though. Max Sarin’s illustrations are great at both complementing and driving the humor. Sarin knows how and when to exaggerate and warp the characters to highlight the mood or play up to the jokes and it works fantastically well with Allison’s script. In fact, Sarin’s cartoony style art is the perfect fit for the feel and tone of Giant Days, where a more realistic style just wouldn’t suit the book. It’s fluid and can shift into the surreal when it needs to, but the expressions are always perfectly clear and convey the right emotions. Liz Fleming really adds to the illustrations with her inking and Giant Days signature look. I especially want to point out the coloring by Whitney Cogar. The way that she uses strong background colors to play up certain scenes is a great way of adding extra emphasis and I love the color palettes used in the flash backs and surrealist parts.
My only criticism about this volume is that the pace may feel a little slow at times. Then again, that’s part of the book’s genteel charm and the drama and sense of things veering towards serious decisions being made by the girls really does build throughout this volume.
Giant Days is a great book if you enjoy slice of life stories and whimsical comedy. Volume 8 is another great addition to the series with its sharp and genuinely funny sense of humor mixed with heart and relatable dramas and doubts. If you don’t enjoy slice of life stories or humor that tends to veer into the silly and surreal, then Giant Days may not be the book for you. Give it a try though, because Giant Days has enough laughs, charm and heart that it might just win you over.