Girls Vol. 1: Conception (Image Comics)

The book maintains an atmosphere just off enough to feel unsettling, the horror inherent in the story ever bubbling just below the surface like an M. Night Shyamalan movie served up in 22-page chunks.

 

 (Image Comics; 152 pages FC; $14.99)
(W: Joshua Luna; A: Jonathan Luna)

We’ve all had our problems with the opposite sex, but thank your deity of choice you don’t have Ethan Daniels’ unique brand of problem. When one girl too many rejects him, Ethan fires off the mother of all drunken tirades at the local bar, offending the town’s entire female populace in the process. On his way home to sleep it off, a woman darts across the road, naked and bleeding. Ethan takes her home to patch her up, sure his luck has finally turned until the morning, when the one girl becomes five and the lot of them brutally attacks and kills some local residents, leaving the tiny rural everytown of Pennystown on edge and looking for both answers and revenge.

A stunning mix of offbeat mystery and survival horror (the rotting flesh of zombies ingeniously replaced with naked women who are every bit as terrifying), Girls sinks its claws into the reader and doesn’t let go. Each issue of the series is structured to answer as few of the readers’ questions as possible while still managing to add new ones, and each chapter wraps up with a killer twist. The book’s compelling story and stellar writing make it so addictive that once you devour this first volume in one sitting, you’ll be thankful that the book hits shelves as a monthly comic so that you can cut that eternal wait to find out what happens next down to a still unbearable 30 days.

A big part of the appeal is Joshua Luna’s script, which is well paced and conversational without ever appearing trite. The residents of the tiny hamlet have distinct personalities that ring true to anyone who’s had the (mis)fortune of living in the middle of nowhere without belittling them as yokels. The book maintains an atmosphere just off enough to feel unsettling, the horror inherent in the story ever bubbling just below the surface like an M. Night Shyamalan movie served up in 22-page chunks.

Jonathan Luna’s art, however, is more of a wildcard. Jonathan has a knack for facial expressions, and an understated yet realistic art style that fits the cinematic story quite well. There are a few glaring shortcuts, however, that pull the reader out of the story: most notably, his frustrating inability to draw hands (some of which look great, others either drawn too small or appearing to have five fingers and no thumb) and what appear to be blurred photographs substituted for backgrounds. Also, there’s no variation in the weight of his lines, and while his excellent colors—similar to animation cel-shading—make up for some of what’s missing, there are places where the flatness of the inks prevents the art from popping as much as it should.

A few artistic quibbles aside, the overall high quality of Girls has turned plenty of heads, including that of Brian Michael Bendis, who tapped the Luna Brothers to handle art chores on his new Spider-Woman: Origin miniseries. One quick read of this first amazing volume, which collects the series’ first six issues, and you’ll certainly understand why. | Jason Green

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