Written by: Bryan Lee O’Malley
Art by: Leslie Hung & Rachel Cohen
Published by: Image Comics
Snotgirl’s debut was innocuous. Good, to be sure, but it seemed that Bryan Lee O’Malley was leaving the fantastical elements of Scott Pilgrim and Seconds behind. That lasted exactly one issue, and Snotgirl has continuously moved further into the realm of magical realism. Major plot points have driven the shift, but subtle hints ingrained in the dialogue serve to build out the story’s inherent absurdity.
All that has me questioning if any of it is real. Every character reads like a caricature. Lottie, Caroline, and the rest speak in a way that is half a step removed from how people actually talk. And yet, O’Malley has tricked me into thinking the dialogue is perfectly natural. After all, that’s how the world of Snotgirl works.
I would be inclined to call it insidious, if it weren’t all so damn smart and fun to read. Despite not always acting like it, the cast feels real. I feel comfortable saying I could articulate their personalities, their fears, and how they interact with characters and the world around them. It takes exceptionally strong character work–especially in just seven issues–to reach this point.
All this is accomplished under the pretense of the characters being incredibly shallow. Ostensibly, O’Malley is writing a commentary on social media. The incarnations of characters we see interacting with one another could easily be avatars, representing a social media presence. For some of the cast, their personal brands and social media personality has eclipsed their actual personality.
It’s a stroke of genius from O’Malley, and this seventh issue shines particularly bright. The overarching mystery is as enticing as ever, and only deepens with this issue. But that’s just the backdrop. As per usual, the bulk of the issue is spent following Lottie and her, uh, “friends.”
Unsurprisingly, it’s all really good. This issue plays up the juxtaposition between the series’ darker undertones and the playful, surface level overtones particularly well. The “hater’s brunch” is cast in an entirely new light, thanks to the addition of Caroline, whose dynamic with the rest of the group is executed with incredible precision.
Leslie Hung’s art brings it all together. Her style fits the Snotgirl’s ethos perfectly. It’s charming and playful, but unnerving when it needs to be. Hung’s character designs stand out, because of how well they complement the writing. Much like the dialogue, the characters and costumes feel exaggerated. Close enough to something that could be real, but just weird enough to give the book an uncanny valley-esque vibe.
The same applies to body language. At times, the body language is conveyed subtly. But for the most part, it too is over-dramatic. Yet, the efficacy of it is simply undeniable. Hung’s visuals are as important to bringing the characters to life as O’Malley’s dialogue.
Snotgirl is definitely an oddity. It thrives in breaking from the norm, using that very divergence as a plot device. Every issue is a treat, a jaunt through a world that feels all too brief, and leaves me desperate for the next installment. Hopefully this book is back to a more regular release schedule, making that desperation short-lived.