Writer/Variant cover artist: Bryan Lee O’Malley
Artist/Cover artist: Leslie Hung
Colors: Mickey Quinn
Letters: Maré Odomo
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US
Bryan Lee O’Malley is, of course, best known for his Scott Pilgrim series of graphic novels from Oni Press from several years ago. I appreciated the Pilgrim and acknowledged the high level of craft that went into them, but I had difficulty in connecting with the slacker characters. I was well beyond the irresponsible, early-20s stage of my life that defined the Pilgrim characters. I related much more to the protagonist in his one-off Seconds graphic novel last year. With Snotgirl, O’Malley has crafted another immature, 20-something lead, but to my surprise, I found her much more fascinating. While she’s far from an admirable character, there are aspects of her character with which the reader can identify. It’s an unusual exploration of the Millennial generation, but it’s also an intelligent examination of a superficial and lost soul.
Lottie is a fashion blogger who craves validation solely on her own limited terms. She imagines herself to be famous and is constantly disappointed when others don’t reinforce that dream for her. She’s frustrated with her friends when they don’t follow through with what she wants to do from moment to moment. Another annoyance in her life is a severe allergy problem, but she’s elated to discover a seemingly magic pill, provided by a new doctor, that will eliminate that minor obstacle in her life. Lottie thinks things are going her way when she meets Caroline, another blogger whose sheer coolness makes her the ideal new bestie in Lottie’s shallow life. Little does she know that she will be denied that Happily Ever After…
This is first exposure (of which I’m aware) to the work of artist Leslie Hung, and I’m pleased to discover she’s more than equal to the task of bringing an O’Malley story to life. Clearly influenced by manga style, she instills a vital youthfulness into these characters while also ensuring they don’t look like children. Her work reminds me of the styles of Lea Hernandez and Becky Cloonan. The various young women who make up the cast of characters are quite lovely, but more importantly, they’re not sexualized (even when we see one of them having sex). Hung’s eye for anatomy reinforces the grounded, character-driven aspects of the comic, but the loose quality of her linework and exaggerated manga-esque touches bring a stylized quality that’s fun to absorb as well.
Another important visual component of this debut issue is the lettering by Maré Odomo, namely in how the texting aspects of the dialogue (and there’s a lot of texting, given the Millennial focus here) are convincingly conveyed. I also really appreciated Mickey Quinn’s colors as well. They’re not as vibrant as what one sees on O’Malley’s variant cover, for example. Instead, the muted pastels bring almost a reflective or introspective tone to the story, which helps to balance the self-centered nature of the titular character.
O’Malley is certainly comfortable exploring youth culture, and he does it so adeptly, one can hardly blame him for returning to that subject matter. He gives his older readers an accessible view into that culture, and he even provides us with a couple of laughs, such as Lottie’s reference to a long-standing online presence that’s hardly as old as she thinks it to be.
What’s most fascinating about Snotgirl is how O’Malley puts such a distasteful character front and centre but nevertheless manages to get his audience to sympathize, even empathize with her. Her constant questioning of herself in the face of her encounter with Coolgirl evokes memories of one’s own crises of self-esteem. Lottie isn’t a likeable figure, but she’s quite relatable. Probably Lottie’s biggest character flaw is her utter lack of self-awareness. That blindness about herself is symbolized most powerfully in her final action in this issue. In a way, one could describe her as an addict of ego, and it’s driving her toward a rock bottom. 8/10
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