“The loser cashier-guy, going ape-shit—that was bad enough. But you, waking us up in the middle of night, warning us about naked psycho women And now this creepy ‘Emergency town-meeting’ bullshit—?...What the fuck?! I thought this town was nice!”
Yes indeed, Girls is upon us and there are strange goings on in Pennystown. I could skip straight to the sperm monster, but you may think it’s a crazed Japanese Manga (a la Urotsukidoji); instead let’s take a backwards step.
The Luna brothers—Jonathon and Josh—are as talented at marketing themselves as they are at writing and artist chores.
Their first major published work was Ultra, an eight issue limited series for Image comics. They created their own super hero universe and told the story of a workaholic super heroine looking for love (and sex) over seven busy days.
The covers parodied famous magazines (Time, Wired, Rolling Stone) and emblazed “Created by the Luna Brothers” on each of them right by the title. This confidence in attempting to create a brand on their first venture was combined with rich characters and dialogue heavy panels (quickly dubbed “Sex and The City with tights”). It became a firm fan favourite in 2004/2005 and the issues sold out quick, and it was recently collected in the trade paperback Ultra: Seven Days.
Girls, the successor to Ultra from Josh (plot, script, layouts) and Jonathan (plot, art, colors, letters) was originally conceived as a twelve issue series, but has now been extended into a two year story arc by the Lunas.
The story is situated in Pennystown—a typical Twin Peaks town setting, but that’s where the comparison stops; there’s little Lynch eccentricity in the characters on display. Instead it is the events, not the people, that are just plain weird.
We first meet Ethan masturbating; it’s a crude but funny scene. He is a young man with girl trouble; he pines for his ex-girlfriend and while working in the local store completely misreads the signs of an attractive visitor to the town:
“I thought that was flirting.”
After completing his embarrassing day at the store and consoling himself with drink at the bar later that night, his complete frustration with the opposite sex results in a verbal tirade at just about every female resident in earshot (to a woman he labels “easy”: “I tend to jump to conclusions when people sit on my penis”). He’s forcibly removed by the town sheriff, also Ethan’s main sexual removal, when all of a sudden the glass shatters in every vehicle in the nearby vicinity. This supernatural event comes right as Ethan shouts at the bar patrons in anger, and is the first of a long string of mysteries. Is it merely coincidence, or did his anger trigger the strange happening?
Ethan drives home that night and finds a naked woman walking along the middle of the highway. He takes her home and is quite unaware that she is being hunted by two armed hillbillies, a father and son out for revenge. Although the girl appears genuinely traumatised, she is also sexually aggressive, and Ethan manages to bed her (she is very attractive, and I did mention he was very frustrated?). The girl (who has said very little at that point) retires to the bathroom and proceeds to lay eggs which start to hatch as clones of her. There’s virtually no mystery here; this is definitely Ethan’s fault.
We are then faced with the town overrun by naked women who seem to want to kill any female resident and mate with any male. To make matters worse, a force field around the town ensures no one can get in or out
There are some great characters, in particular Ethan’s friend Merv, who while not the cleverest thinker (“Great! Let’s call the retard”) more than makes amends with his enthusiasm with explosives.
It’s amusing and horrific in equal measures, as the naked women come on like the zombies in the recent Dawn Of The Dead remake and there is some genuine gore, but the dialogue is also intentionally very funny. Ethan’s rants in particular have the kind of humorous bitterness anyone who’s been turned down for a date can identify with.
The story is smart and the art is very cinematic. The art stays in focus as the “camera” zooms in for the centre characters in the shot (blurring the background). Panels switch between traditional small panels and wide shots across the page, showing the Lunas’ versatility.
The individual issues include a map of Pennystown, upon which is added the locations of various events as they unfold, and also three pages of fan’s letters (don’t see that much these days). It’s also surprising to see the first issue is now in a 4th printing, an event which rarely happens, especially for a “smaller” publisher like Image: if people miss the first issue they usually wait for the trade rather than pay an inflated price or take a 2nd printing (comic collectors usually only like 1st printings for their supposed value). Issues 1 to 6 have recently been collected in the trade paperback Conception.
As for the sperm monster, don’t worry, they add it to the map in issue 7. After slicing one of the residents into pieces it’s been pretty quiet.
Ultimately, what’s it all about? Is it Ethan’s sexual frustration manifested? I have no idea, and the Lunas, like the aforementioned David Lynch, aren’t keen on giving up their secrets. What I do know is this comic, in a time when the major two companies DC and Marvel are in superhero annual event overload (Infinity Crisis, House Of M) is an inventive joy. It’s pure Luna and I can’t wait to see what happens next.