Good As Lily (DC Comics/Minx)

galheaderGrace Kwon gets a few special surprise guests at her 18th birthday party: versions of herself at ages 6, 29, and 70.

 

 

The cover to Good As Lily by Derek Kirk Kim. Click thumbnail for a larger image.176 pgs. B&W; $9.99

(W: Derek Kirk Kim; A: Jesse Hamm)

 

Grace Kwon doesn't necessarily lead a charmed life, but she's certainly living a pretty decent one. She's got a tight-knit group of close, fun-loving friends, she scored the lead in the school play, and she just found out she's been accepted to Stanford. But on her 18th birthday, Grace gets a much bigger shock than just a surprise birthday party: three mysterious women appear who turn out to be alternate versions of herself at the ages of 6, 29, and 70, but the three new Graces aren't her only problem. When the school makes budget cutbacks, the play ends up on the chopping block, which will not only rob Grace of her first starring role but will also destroy her chance to make googly eyes at the studly drama teacher Mr. Levon. The three extra Graces pitch in to help save the day and the play, but they also have their own agendas, and their own unfinished business that only the 18-year old Grace seems able to solve.

 

Interior art from Good As Lily by Jesse Hamm. Click thumbnail for a larger image.The latest addition to DC's teen-centric, female-friendly Minx line, Good As Lily is a refreshingly different story for a graphic novel. Writer Derek Kirk Kim's debut Same Difference and Other Stories won an Eisner, a Harvey, and an Ignatz Award, and his work here shows that his initial success was no fluke. Kim's brisk pacing moves the story into high gear quickly and allows for a tale that satisfies like a full meal rather than the quick snack one would expect from a 148-page graphic novel (the remaining 28 pages of the book are previews of other upcoming Minx titles). Kim has an uncanny knack for dialogue; the most startling example is the four Graces, all of whom speak in tones that reflect their age and life experience and yet still retain the feeling that they are in reality the same person. Even the characters who get little more than cameos feel fully-formed.

 

Interior art from Good As Lily by Jesse Hamm. Click thumbnail for a larger image.While Kim's award-winning pedigree is well documented, Jesse Hamm is more of an unknown quantity — Good As Lily is his first mainstream work after a series of minicomics and anthology appearances — but he turns out to be a very solid collaborator. At times, Hamm's art is so simplified that faces become plain, almost amateurish, yet at other times his cartoony figures sparkle with life and emotion. Fortunately, the latter occurs far more often than the former, and if future work could hit those high notes with more consistency he'd be almost unstoppable. Hamm also has yet to settle into any particular artistic bad habits for the sake of expediency, especially when it comes to layouts, where Hamm often explores quirky, untraditional page compositions that succeed more often than not.

 

Put as simply as possible, I absolutely loved this book. Kim never takes the easy way out with Grace's tale: she's neither the perfect girl leading a charmed life nor the nerdy kid picked on by the popular kids, but just a regular, ordinary high school girl dealing with problems both ordinary and extraordinary. The cast of characters is thoroughly likable, and Hamm's art does a stellar job using facial expressions and body language to communicate the subtle personality traits that Kim's script demands. The momentum of the story carries it to a conclusion that's satisfying without ever being pat or cloying. This fantastic done-in-one tale is easily one of the most heartwarming and enjoyable releases so far this year. | Jason Green

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