The covers of the previous few Giant Days have been imprinted with a big Eisner Awards logo. Close inspection is required to ascertain that it’s been among the five nominees for Best Humor Publication, rather than the winner, but then there can only be the single winner. In 2019 Giant Days not only won The Best Humor Publication award for material published in 2018, but also took the award for Best Continuing Series. Yes, it’s that good, and the stories earning those awards are collected here and in volumes ten and eleven.

So why is Giant Days so good? John Allison writes first rate comedy drama around interesting characters, and Max Sarin’s cartooning brings everything vividly to life. It’s as simple as that, really. Not good enough? You want an example? In volume eight Daisy, Esther and Susan went to look for a new house to rent. The landlord was in a bad way, mourning his departed wife, which seemed like a simple amusing piece of whimsy alongside the main plot. He was surely never to be seen again. He’s back in the opening chapter, Allison finding a use for him as the only person who can relate to how low Esther feels. Alternatively, look at the neat piece of understanding conversation in the sample art, topped off with a decent gag.

Volume eight ended on quite the cliffhanger, as the friendship begun as halls of residence roomies in volume one, and continued with sharing a house from volume five, might be teetering on the verge of collapse. It’s only reflecting on that that the realisation drops into place just how far John Allison has brought Daisy, Esther and Susan since their first meeting. Perhaps it’s also an indication of his progress as a writer. It can’t be said with certainty that three years earlier he’d have solved the problem rapidly with a gag, but the chances were high. Here the agony of the cast is prolonged along with a whole raft of good gags, including the male counterparts of the cast.

Sarin has also come a long way, and has for some considerable while owned the characters to the extent that it’s surprising to recall that Giant Days began with a different artist. Ed’s nightmare in the sample art is an amazing piece of cartooning, above and beyond the expressive joy to be found on every page.

There’s some elation and heartbreak as we reach the end of second year for the Sheffield students, and up next is what they did during their summer holidays.