Artist: Stephane Oiry
Colorist: Stephane Oiry
Lettering: Calix Ltd.
Translator: Emma Wilson
Published by: Dupuis/Europe Comics
Number of Pages: 49
Original Publication: 2014
A 16 panel grid. SIXTEEN panels per page. And 98% of them have full backgrounds.
Oh, and there’s this great lead character who’s not exactly pure of heart, but is a lot of fun to watch work. She’s scrappy.
This series is all about the title character, Maggy Garrisson. She’s in every scene of this book. Lewis Trondheim’s script stays completely focused on her, including all the narration coming from her.
As the book starts, Maggy is two years unemployed and desperate for any kind of job. Her neighbor sets her up to be an assistant to a private detective. The two immediately get off on the wrong foot.
He’s asleep at his desk, and his office is in shambles. She tries to clean it up, but he leaves as soon as he wakes up because there’s nothing to do.
She finds out that the work he does have is either useless and not worth any time or money, or dangerous and borderline criminal.
So she works around the system. She finds ways of solving a couple of the cases and taking a profit for herself. Maggy is scrappy in the way that someone with their back to the wall and desperate to make a buck might just be.
It’s what she does and how she does it that makes her so fascinating. She’s unassuming, and a smooth talker: street smart and creative.
All in all, she’s just a lot of fun to watch work.
The Imperfect “Hero”
It’s not that she’s perfect, or that she has all her stuff together. She’s a bit of a mess. Chronically single and craving the cigarettes she gave up when the money ran out a while back, she’s likely to be seen at the local bar knocking back pints of beer and making fun of the losers surrounding her.
She’s been on this bad streak for awhile and is a bit numb to it. She finds ways to survive, and she keeps plowing ahead.
What might really set her apart from the rest of comics, though, is that she’s the lead of the comic, and yet not a classical beauty. She doesn’t have piercing blue eyes or the figure of an angel. She doesn’t parade around the comic in skin tight clothes. Maggy feels much more like a “real” person. Her clothes are slightly baggier, she’s hiding inside her bulky coat, and she never once worries out loud about how she looks.
It’s great to see someone on the page who could be your neighbor next door, and not a model taken off the beach near the studios of the guy drawing the book. (That’s my theory for so many of the characters in the early WildStorm and Top Cow Universe titles…)
Plotting the Story Without an Origin
This book is not an origin story. This is not about a childhood trauma that leaves her a quibbling mess who can’t relate to people and can never be happy with a boyfriend.
This is more about Maggy finding her place in this world. She has some skills she was never formally trained in. She’s a creative detective in need of some guidance to harness that energy properly. (And legally.)
The first half of the book is a series of small stories showing us how she works as a detective. She’s quick on her feet, basically. She’s not always honest or ethical about it, but she gets the job done and collects her money. It’s fun to watch her work. And when one of her plans involves hugging all the men at a bar and grabbing their butts as she goes, you have to admire her ability to throw caution to the wind and, on a couple of occasions, really enjoy her job.
The plot comes together in the second half, when she finds her boss beat up in his office. His wallet holds tickets that some crooked people are willing to press her hard to get back. This is where she has to be one step ahead of the bad guys and talk herself out of some scary situations, all the while using her connections and her intuition to get through the day.
Oiry does an amazing job in illustrating this story. There’s a lot going on, and he only adds to it. I can’t imagine how long some of these pages took to draw.
The best comparison I can make to his art is Sean Phillips’ work. Oiry is much more “cartoonish”/less photoreferenced, but there’s something about the storytelling in this book that reminds me a lot of Phillips’. He can draw the same character panel after panel after panel and never look tired doing it. People act naturally.
The coloring with its flat colors in the background, broken up by geometric shapes case from windows and doors helps to give this detective book a bit of that noir feel, even at full color.
This whole book is a great case of an artist telling the story by making the best choices possible, and NOT the most convenient. This is not a book about shortcuts. He’s drawing crowded city streets, detailed grocery store shelves, office ephemera, and bar tables and stools. I do believe Oiry could draw anything, just based on what he does draw in normal life in this book.
It’s to the point where the least detailed thing is the Brighton Pier, and that’s only because that scene is on the beach, partially. Still, most of that is under a pier, and he draws all the pier columns and braces, anyway.
The lettering in this book is perfect, which is something I don’t often say about these translated books. The crossbar-I thing isn’t a problem here, true, but it’s the size and shape of the lettering that fits. (OK, we can quibble over the use of the crossbar in “I’m,” but I’d let it go here.)
There’s not much room for lettering in this book. Every panel is basically 1/12th of the page, and there are lots of talking heads.
Truth be told, it’s still a little small to read on an iPad, so I found myself turning the iPad sideways into landscape mode and reading the book half a page at a time in exchange for the larger panels.
But the font is a great choice. It looks hand written. The letterforms are uneven, often slightly sloppy looking. The only disadvantage to it is the there doesn’t seem to be two sets of shapes for each characters. The fact that it’s a computer font becomes obvious anytime you have a double letter and they look perfectly identical next to each others. The “Y” shape stands out it in this book, particularly. It’s a strong diagonal line that cuts across the baseline of the lettering and pushes other characters next to it further to the right.
I’m really nit-picking here, but the more I like at it, the more I see it. The effect is mitigated by how small the font has to be sized to fit on the page, so don’t worry about it.
Alternate Reading Path
This book also uses Izneo’s “Eazy Comics” technology, which is basically their equivalent to Comixollogy’s “Guided View.” It lets you read the book one panel at a time.
This is the kind of book that might work out all right in that format. With such a regimented page structure, the rhythm of reading a twelfth of the page at a time over and over could be appealing. There are two-panel and three-panel wide moments throughout the book, so it’s not a perfect pattern.
Oiry is not utilizing crazy page layouts that don’t break out nicely into one panel at a time reading. Yes, you’d still be losing the page turn cliffhangers, but that’s not a major portion of Trondheim’s storytelling.
In this book, scenes end when they do, not when the pages does. “Eazy Comics” might just work…
Yes. If you like noir or detectives or crime stories, this is a great comic to read. If you like the Brubaker/Phillips series, I think this one will appeal to you. Maggy is unlike every other character in comics today.
— 2018.012 —
To Be Continued….
I’ve reviewed the whole series. Here are links to the second and third books in the series: