I've been a Bryan Lee O'Malley fan for several years now. I got hooked with Scott Pilgrim, went back and enjoyed Lost At Sea, loved Seconds and enjoyed having a hardback novel of his work. So anytime I see him on Twitter working on a project, my interest gets piqued a bit. But his latest project is not a solo venture, in fact, it's a partnership between him and newcomer artist Leslie Hung to produce Snotgirl for Image Comics. The first volume of the series came out late last month, so we're checking it out in all it's green glory.
The story revolves around Lottie Person, a fashion blogger who on the outside looks like she's queen of the scene, but the reality is her life is in disarray. Her friends/not friends are all bloggers who rag on others in a group text and barely socialize with each other. Her boyfriend has apparently broken it off with her and is dating someone new. And the new best friend she met not only seems cooler than her but seems more put together than Lottie ever wishes she could be. After receiving some new medication, Lottie heads out to a bar with her new friend, only to have things dissolve quickly into a night of possible murder.
One of the charming aspects to Snotgirl is that it pulls no punches in being a modern era comic, using text shorthand and internet speak as part of the dialog and explaining it to people who don't get it on certain pages. The flow of the story is amazing as you're thrown head-first into Lottie's life but are able to pick up on all the issues quickly. You both love her and despise her, but that's because you're getting the full picture of who she is, and like any person, we all have our good and bad sides. It's compelling to watch her be forced to deal with both of them at the same time and navigate how her life will work out.
Being a blogger myself for publications, there were aspects of the character that I could both relate to and be slightly scared by. The idea that you are a personality and no one truly knows the real you is a concept hundreds of bloggers deal with, though I'm sure it's all at different levels. It's an interesting take on the life behind the culture as you are both a personality and an enigma to people but done in a way that feels accessible. The story itself feels fleshed out in a way that those who know it can enjoy this peek into it, and those who don't know can have a taste of the life in a slightly exaggerated form. It's some of the best character development O'Malley has done in his career.
The artistic style of Hung is fantastic. The colors of Lottie are defined throughout her personality quirks and traits, including the way she speaks. It has a classic comic style as well as a figure design that reminds me of old romance comics. So while it's clear this is a comic book, the design and style suck your attention right into the page as these characters feel much more lifelike. For a good portion of the book, backgrounds and spaces are not clearly defined—and that's perfectly okay as the characters matter more than the world around them, which simply becomes a faded look of shapes and colors.
Snotgirl Vol. 1 covers the first five issues of the series, and by the end, you're left with a lot more questions than answers over what the hell is actually going on here. But it wouldn't be a proper O'Malley venture without a sense of the unknown waiting for you. I'm also curious to see how Hung's style will influence the series as it continues, as there are definitely aspects to it that are both emphasizing things we should know and hiding things we have yet to see. If you haven't had a chance to read it, it's one of the few graphic novel selections being sold for $10, which makes it a steal in the current market. Give it a shot and see what you think.