Review: Giant Days

SPL Book Bingo 2022, Book 3

Note: This is the third in a series of posts about books I read for Seattle Public Library’s 2022 Book Bingo. I read all 14 volumes of this serial comic on my back porch, one volume per day, to fill the Read outside square on the bingo card.

One of my stupidest skills is giving gifts to my partner that are, secretly or not-so-, also gifts to myself. Giant Days was such a gift, but in fairness, she did specifically ask for it.

Giant Days is a comic written by John Allison, the relatively well-known author of Bobbins, Scary-Go-Round and Bad Machinery from back in the heyday of early-2000s serial web comics. Allison illustrated those comics himself, and while I had no complaints about his art when I was reading them, Lissa Treiman and Max Sarin’s work on Giant Days really kick it up to another level of expressiveness and, honestly, comedy. John Allison is one of the best phrase-turners in webcomicsSecond, in my estimation, only to the incomparable Achewood, about which much digital ink has been justifiably spilled.

— one need only look at the blurbs for his patreon tiers to see this — but the illustrations frequently push the jokes into literal, actual laugh-out-loud territory. Treiman’s work on the first six issues is very good. Sarin’s on the remainder is wonderful.Julia Madrigal draws a couple issues in the middle of the series. They are all right, and I think I would like Madrigal’s art just fine if she were the main illustrator, but by this point Sarin has made the characters so thoroughly their own that the change is a bit jarring.

Giant Days follows three British girls through their three years of college, or “uni” or whatever they call it in Britain. Esther de Groot, who got by far the most air time in Allison’s previous work under the name “Dark Esther,” is a snarky, bubbly Goth with a propensity for chaotic drama and a horny streak. Susan Ptolemy is the trio’s realist, a “powerful and complicated woman” who hides her love for her friends under a tough exterior. Daisy Wooten is a sincere and sweet but rather naïve homeschool kid who harbors secret skills.

The party’s over, but the trio aren’t finished.

Esther de Groot, joyous and slightly manic: “Let’s go skinny dipping!” Susan Ptolemy, appalled but intrigued: “Agh! What! No! Okay!” Daisy Wooten, appalled and recoiling: “I am not going skinny dipping! My body is a secret!”

I don’t have a lot to say about Giant Days except that it’s very, very, very good. The plot is fine and engaging enough, but it’s really just an excuse to bounce the characters off each other in interesting ways. The dialogue is top-notch, as is the art. That each issue is mostly a self-contained story means it’s easy to pick up and put down again ten to fifteen minutes later in a better mood. Rather than extol its virtues, I’m just going to drop some lovingly photographed favorite panels and call this blog post done. You should read Giant Days if you can get your hands on it.

A typical interaction between Esther and Susan.

Esther, hand on chin thoughtfully but with a shit-eating grin: “Let the healing begin. Are you going to whoop it up with the foreign students?” Susan, scowling murderously: “I have never knowingly ‘whooped it up.’ I don’t know what that is.”
Susan discovers one of Daisy’s idiosyncrasies.

Susan: “£5,000! Imagine what you could do with half of that!” Daisy: “Buy 250,000 penny chews!” Susan, disturbed and skeptical: “Your imagination is horrifying.” Daisy, horrifyingly blissed out: “Chew ‘em alllll up.’”
Susan and Esther react to Daisy’s scandalized denial that she ever experimented with the “five-finger discount” as a teen.

Susan and Esther are wearing almost identical parenthesis-shaped shit-eating grins, eyes narrowed conspiratorially at each other. Susan: “Well, that makes…” Esther: “…one of us.”