Monday, July 30, 2012

Gingerbread Girl

Annah Billups is a tease. We learn that in the first few pages of the story, as she awaits her date for the evening. It turns out she has made two, and she is leaving with the first person who shows up. Along the way, we learn more about Annah, her scientist father, and her potentially fictional sister, Ginger. As we follow Annah on her date, we meet a number of characters, from bulldogs to pigeons to passersby, and in an experimental storytelling twist, they become narrators for brief windows of time. Many philosophical questions, about identity, emotions, love, and reality are tossed around as we try to keep up with the flow of the evening.

This tale was originally published as a webcomic on Top Shelf 2.0. It is the product of husband/wife creative team Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover. They have collaborated in the past on Banana Sunday, an all-ages graphic novel about a young woman who becomes the guardian for three monkeys. They are also both memebers of the Periscope Studio. Tobin has written a number of comics, notably many entries in the Marvel Adventures series. He has also written a novel about superheroes, Prepare to Die! Coover has also written and drawn the adult comic book series Small Favors, which has a strong following, and a number of short works for Marvel Comics. Tobin and Coover both speak more about Gingerbread Girl in this interview.

Reviews of this book I have seen have been very positive. Comics Should Be Good's Greg Burgas called it "so beautiful and haunting" and added that it is "a fantastic comic that looks great." Phil Oldham described the book as "thought provoking, interesting and fun." Comicsgirl called the book a "true collaboration" between Coover's "cute and appealing" characters and Tobin's "playful" dialogue.

I agree that this story displays both creators' strengths. At first I found the shifting narrators jarring, then something of a novelty, and by the end of the book I had adjusted to them. I felt in a narrative where the reader is constantly seeking to dispel a cloud of mystery that the blend of authoritative information and (un)reliable narrators contributed to the book's tone in an interesting, inventive way. At the end there are multiple possibilities we can believe and no indications which are "real." Finally, I realize the entire story is available online but I feel the book is an attractive collection, well worth owning.

Previews, reviews, and other links are available here from the book's publisher, Top Shelf.

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