Back to School

An article by, Aaron Burton

For weeks now I have seen Back to School sales and supplies at nearly every store I have been to. I have walked in to see rows of fresh backpacks and outfits. I have seen the endless bins of pens and pencils by the registers. I have been out of academia for quite some time, but the beginning of September always takes me on the proverbial Memory Lane excursion.

College was a crazy time for me. I know a lot of people who have said the same. Keeping up a GPA while developing your adult self can be quite the undertaking. I was lucky to go to a small college where the social life was a bit more intimate than larger schools. On the other hand, the closeness made the groups and cliques feel even more dividing, especially with school being filled with children of wealthy families. As a humble punk-rocker it took some time for me to find my place in the sea of expensive clothes and trust funds.

Giant Days: Year One is written and drawn by John Allison. Many of you may be familiar with his popular web comics such as Bobbins and Bad Machinery. The book would best be described as a drama or ‘slice of life’. The book is published under Allison’s label Scary Go Round. The book was released in February of 2011 and has a total of three issues. This mini-series serves as a prequel to series’ main storyline.

Esther, Susan and Daisy are three very different young women who are starting college. They quickly bond and become a threesome of best friends. Their first few weeks at school are filled with excitement as they have run ins with the popular girls, noisy neighbors and extra-curricular clubs.

The artwork of Giant Days: Year One is a bit different than the main story. Year One takes on an aesthetic which is closer to Allison’s web comics. What sets this book apart is the coloring. Apart from the cover and inserts, the first issue is completely drawn in shades of blue. It is amazing how shades of one color can take on a life of their own. The second and third issues are drawn in bright popping colors.

The story itself is a fairly realistic coming of age dramedy. It is easy to put yourself into the character’s shoes. However, there are some surreal exceptions. One prime example of this is the O’Malley-esque fight scene between the protagonists and the popular clique. These parts do an excellent job of keeping the readers on their toes. You never quite know what is going to happen next.

Even though the prequel is only three issues long, Allison does a outstanding job with both character development and telling a self-contained story. Since the characters are starting college, they are shedding their high school personas in order to make room for their next incarnation. Freshman year at college is often a time for personal reinvention. It is many teenager’s first time away from the comfort of their own home. Such a big transition can facilitate identity changes at an accelerated rate. This setting allowed for Allison to develop the characters at a faster pace than other stories. Readers will get to know the main characters pretty well before starting the main storyline.

This book hit close to home for me. The first few weeks of school away from home can be intimidating. This is particularly true when you are searching for a new group of friends in an unfamiliar area. I went into this book completely blind. Prior to reading Giant Days: Year One I had no background knowledge of the author/series. When I purchased Giant Days: Year One I thought the series was only three issues long. I was very sad to see it end. I had no idea that there five volumes worth of issues contained in the main storyline. I can now say that I am happily continuing my journey with Esther, Susan and Daisy.

John Allison’s web comics can be found on his website: The website also has ways for purchasing his published works. His books can also be purchased on Comixology.

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