Monday, 8 November 2010

Review - Girls Volumes 1, 2, 3 & 4

I love the Luna brothers. Their comics are not quite perfect, but they also kind of are. I mean, all three of the series they have released so far – ‘Ultra’, ‘Girls’, and ‘The Sword’ – have been entirely self-contained and can be read and enjoyed by anyone. To people who don’t usually read comics, this may sound like a bizarre thing to say. Aren’t all comics self-contained and able to be read and enjoyed by anyone? Well, no. They aren’t. You see, most comics these days require a PhD in nerdology, an advanced understanding of the minutiae of 70 years’ worth of comics’ history. It’s got so that even life-long nerds like myself don’t understand (or particularly care) what is going on anymore. And even if you are capable of understanding what’s going on, even if you do still care, you still need to be a higher rate taxpayer in order to be able to afford all the many crossovers you will need to buy just to keep up with the latest (never-ending) event. Sigh.

Against this backdrop, those naive young fools the Luna brothers had the crazy idea of releasing three enjoyable, entirely self contained series, over a period of several years. Not only was it possible to understand them, it was even possible to afford them, as they never released more than one comic in any given month, and didn’t think it necessary to bother with crossovers. They were enjoyable as single issues – most issues ended on a cliff-hanger of some kind – and in trades. And I hope they have done very well out of them, because in an ideal world, every comic would be at least as good as a Luna brothers comic.

I doubt that they are selling anywhere near as many comics as they would have done if they’d gone to Marvel and worked on an Avengers title. They did do a Spider-Woman mini-series with Brian Michael Bendis a few years ago but thankfully didn’t get lost in the world of corporate comics and went on to release ‘The Sword’ through Image (who also published ‘Ultra’ and ‘Girls’). As far as I am aware, at least one of their projects (this one, I think) has been optioned for a film or TV show, so hopefully they will indirectly enjoy success from their comics, but it would be nice to think that they were doing well just producing quality comics.

‘Girls’, which ran for 24 issues, available collected in four trade paperbacks or one large hardcover, is the story of the residents of Pennystown (population 65 – at least at the beginning of the book), a small American town which finds itself trapped under an invisible, indestructible dome with a bunch of identical, rapidly breeding, naked girls, who want to kill all the women and mate with the men (woo-hoo!). It’s nowhere near as rude as it might sound and even all the naked girls are tastefully drawn most of the time. This is very much a horror / sci-fi tale, not an ‘adult’ comic – even if sex is its major theme. It’s just as good as many current sci-fi / fantasy TV shows (Lost, etc.) and would no doubt appeal to a similar audience, if that audience was only aware of its existence. This actually reads a lot like a Stephen King novel in comic form, which is fine by me as I quite like Stephen King novels. In fact, if you are a Stephen King fan, you will no doubt be familiar with the ‘dome’ device used in Girls, as King used the exact same idea in his recent novel ‘Under The Dome’ (I’m not accusing anyone of ripping anyone else off – Girls came out first but King supposedly started to write his book 25 years ago and the basic idea has been used elsewhere, even in the Simpsons Movie, and King didn’t have any homicidal naked girls running around in his novel). ‘Girls’ is actually better than ‘Under The Dome’, and if there were any justice in the world this would have been an international best-seller, too.

Like the characters in King’s novel, the residents of Pennystown (Penis Town?) quickly disintegrate under pressure and break into factions – men and women – who essentially distrust each other. Some of the men, unable to resist temptation, do mate with the girls, while some of the women get a bit carried away by their distrust of the men and even resort to castration in one case. The story is ultimately about the battle of the sexes, more than the external threat of the girls, who merely provide the fulcrum that helps push civil relations over the edge.

Joshua Luna’s script is witty and well thought out. There were some typos and a few things that didn’t quite make sense – how did papa hillbilly manage to free his son from his handcuffs with an axe when his own hands were handcuffed behind his back? – but I can overlook those moments because everything else was so good. In monthly comic form, I thought this series dragged a bit towards the end, after an exciting start, and could have done with being a at least half a dozen issues shorter, but in collected form it worked better. It was perhaps a bit too wordy, but then I tend to think the same thing about ‘The Walking Dead’, and that comic’s wordiness hasn’t affected its popularity. I love Jonathan Luna’s art, too. I am sure it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I only say that because I am aware that there are some odd people out there who don’t like the art of Mike Allred – another artist with a deceptively simple style – and it is very much to my taste. It reminds me in many ways of the work of Jaime Hernandez – not quite that good (what is?) but still very good indeed.

I read these comics at the time they were coming out but never actually owned them, which I regretted, so when I saw a set of all four trade paperbacks on eBay for £25.00 (including postage) a few weeks ago, I snapped them up. I suppose £25.00 wasn’t that cheap really, but it was a lot less than it would have cost me to buy the original comics, a lot less than it would have cost me to buy the four books new from a comic shop, a bit less than it would have cost me to buy them new from Amazon, and less than it would have cost me to buy the Girls: The Complete Collection HC, which I had been getting very tempted by (well, it was on my Amazon wish list). I don’t regret buying these at all but I don’t think I would have regretted buying the hardcover, either, as I like this series a lot.


  1. Apart from the Spider-Woman series a few years ago, I've never read anything by these guys. You've made me feel I should have.