Review by Frank Plowright
By the material collected in Volume Twelve, Giant Days had stepped up from constantly being nominated for Eisner Awards to winning them, this collection opening with the final story from the winning year. This wasn’t just for Best Humour Series, but also for Best Continuing Series. Looking back at our ratings for the series since it began tells the story. John Allison continually writes sharply observed and very funny stories of student life, always expressively drawn by Max Sarin. The consistency has been amazing. Giant Days started very well, and there’s been no drop-off, and no resorting to repetition or formula. Every volume presents four stories, and they never disappoint.
Ed Gemmill has been part of Giant Days since near enough the start of the series, first the poor sap that fell hopelessly in love with Esther. While Allison’s always ensured the entire Giant Days cast has been well defined, Ed actually became more interesting once he managed to leave Esther behind and the opening story here has him and Nina in central roles. Since Volume Eleven they’ve been to Nina’s home in Australia, a story for some reason not included here, and if their relationship started off as a surprise, it’s surely going to continue that way.
Sarin expands her repertoire when Susan is hired to discover who’s been stealing from the comics and memorabilia store where Esther works. Well, she’s employed there at any rate. Part of the script is noir crime pastiche, and Sarin invests in more black ink for an appropriately dark look as per the sample art. These pages are real eye-openers, as while there’s been no doubt about the superb cartoonist Sarin has grown into, seeing her work in a completely different way opens the eyes again. The story’s very funny as well, but that’s more expected.
Mention has been made of Daisy taking driving lessons, and the third inclusion begins with the effect she’s having on the instructors. However, there’s a broader base, sweeping around most of the cast over the course of a week. It’s being too picky to claim it seems to be panning out as a weaker story, as the character beats are all spot on, but also too obvious in some cases, such as the introduction of McGraw’s brother just setting up the final story. However, Allison’s comic timing is again great, as two plot threads coincide beautifully.
There’s a real surprise for that final story, as it’s also drawn by Allison. He started out drawing his own strips, and after concluding Giant Days – don’t worry, still two volumes left – he returned to illustration. He’s good, but not as good as Sarin, his expressions more fixed and the general look stiffer, but by the time he’s arrived at the tensions bubbling under most weddings the script has carried us away again.
It’s also worth mentioning that Allison delivers the personalities so well that you don’t have to have followed Giant Days from the start to appreciate what it is. This, or any other volume will deliver almost the same amount of laughs. So there you have it. Four more slabs of comic sitcom sharpness. You’ll find more of the same in Volume Thirteen.