Review by Frank Plowright
Esther took the shock decision to quit university at the end of the previous collection, and she’s returned home, her pride intact. It’s about the only aspect of her that is, and she rapidly discovers the life she left behind at home in the first place perhaps isn’t the one she’s been seeing through rose coloured glasses.
John Allison’s first script is an exceptionally polished mini-drama, true to the characters, observant, a nice line in dialogue, and the jokes paced superbly. It could have been written by Victoria Wood. It’s that good, and the best of the four episodes here, but the standard is so high overall that the weakest, a search for new accommodation, would be gold star material for other creators. Allison seems to have decided that Esther’s drama queen character is at the centre of Giant Days, made the pivotal figure in three of the four stories, with the remaining cast members largely bouncing off what she sets in motion, dropping back to the ensemble in the fourth. Her continuing plot thread is a need for money and where that leads, and Allison defines her well as she has to accept the new realities of her life.
Now that she’s settled in to the strip, and been given some reference on how British suburbia looks, Max Sarin’s already excellent cartooning ramps up a notch or two. Her exaggerated facial reactions and poses are spectacular, seen to best advantage in a scene where Esther’s attempting to seduce an extremely dedicated film student. Sarin captures the grimy lodgings, the seedy bars and the anonymity of the university premises, and designs some great characters.
When that’s allied with Allison at his best, there’s magic in Giant Days, and at the very least there’s sharp sitcom charm. Four densely written episodes per book is about right to always leave us wanting more. Volume five presents the end of the freshman year.