It’s Hall Ball (The British university equivalent to prom or homecoming in this story), and Esther, Susan, and Daisy have put on their prettiest dresses and are ready to have fun. But as usual in the topsy turvy world of Giant Days, drama ensues. On the surface, John Allison’s plot seems like soapy melodrama, and on some level it is. But he and artist Lissa Treiman infuse this college slice of life story with a dose of cheeky humor and adorable/hilarious facial expressions. Treiman also unleashes her inner 80s teen film director and draws a nine panel grid dance floor scene that acts as a climax for the issue while giving all the main characters various epiphanies. It’s a real artistic grace note for the series. While this is going on, colorist Whitney Cogar gives the dance scenes a pastel disco overlay using bright primary colors to highlight outbursts from the girls and guys. (Honestly, just Esther.)
Giant Days #5 can also be praised for its treatment of sexuality. Last issue, adorable, energetic Daisy kissed an attractive, yet sadly mean girl named Nadia on her birthday, but then got dumped soon after. This led to her questioning her sexuality, and Allison wisely stays away from bi erasure and keeps Daisy’s sexuality fluid for now. Susan, who is usually the mostly dependable of the group, (She does have a lot of a certain kind of fun in this issue though.) nails Daisy’s dilemma with an insightful line mixed with a dad joke, “Just kiss both kinds of face. Maybe you’ll enjoy them equally. It’s the Nineties, get used to it.” However, Daisy takes this advice literally leading to some awkwardness and heightened tension between certain characters.
Esther gets some much needed character development to go along with her usual plot initiating ways. Allison and Treiman start out by showing how much she cares about Daisy and Susan’s dresses for the Hall Ball helping them buy and alter their outfits (using her “brother” sewing machine) to make them look stunning for the big day. It’s nice to know that however much Daisy sadly reacts to Nadia running around with some attractive, undercut sporting girl and how lonely and occasionally misogynistic the dance is that Giant Days has this core of banter heavy friendship between three very different young women. This friendship gives the series heart and helps readers connect to the characters even if their drama is on the silly side.
Lissa Treiman cuts down on the surrealism a bit in Giant Days #5, but she makes up for it by not skimping on characters’ fashion choices and even foreshadowing a possible connection between Ed and Daisy by giving them similar bright, overstimulated facial expressions. (The starry eyes is a dead giveaway.) She also helps with characterization, like a scene where Esther makes eyes at a wannabe Victorian gentleman (a “Byronic specimen” according to Allison’s script) complete with lustful skulls and stars in the background that is just a veneer for how she really feels. She is an impeccable dresser though.
Giant Days #5 is one of those rare few comics that you read just to spend time with the zany, relatable cast. With some of their actions in this issue, Esther, Daisy, Susan, and their male compatriots Ed and McGraw (who gets the best zingers of the comic) prove they aren’t teen film archetypes, but human beings living in a stylized world thanks to Lissa Treiman’s art work. Writer John Allison raises the relationship drama to fever pitch in this issue, but he doesn’t neglect the wit and wackiness that makes Giant Days such an enjoyable series.