We all handle grief differently. For McGraw, he seems to keep everything bottled up. Susan is concerned for her boyfriend after the death of his father, but she’s unsure as to how to help him when he’s become a shell of his former self. Giant Days #51 is not all doom and gloom. Esther has won a writing contest with a cash prize and has some trouble celebrating in the wake of all this grief. If you thought this would be a down and depressing comic, think again.
I don’t think there has been a more powerful and emotional cover in recent memory than Giant Days #51. Artist Max Sarin perfectly captures the inner turmoil and sadness pulsing through McGraw in this single image. The poor guy is standing stoically while looking up in the rain with tears visibly streaming down his face. It speaks volumes and does so on multiple levels. Yes, McGraw is grief-stricken, but he’s still finding the strength to hold his head up.
It’s amazing to see how writer John Allison handles the concept of grief in this issue. Although the last issue ended with the news of McGraw’s father’s death, we pick up some time later. The funeral is over and Susan returns home with McGraw following shortly after. The funeral is referenced, but not seen, allowing us to start to piece together what we think happened based on the commentary of others. This gives the event a lot more weight, like it’s this ominous force, as the true story comes out over time.
Susan’s reaction to this is heartwarming and hilarious. She hasn’t had to deal with death too much, so she’s not even sure how to handle it, much less comfort McGraw. Susan tries to throw herself into the exploits of Esther and Daisy with mixed results. There’s a great sequence where she asks Daisy if she’s been kissing anyone lately. There’s a devilish grin on Susan’s face which is met with anger from Daisy. It’s a pitch perfect scene.
The comedic relief in Giant Days #51 is expertly timed. Whenever we’re taken down low with sadness, we’re brought back up again with a well-placed joke. More importantly, these aren’t just wacky gags or cheap laughs. These are thought-out and build over time so every time something is referenced, it gets even funnier.
Sarin’s incredible artwork extends into the interior of the comic as well. There’s a nice balance between the somber and the silly. A nice example of this comes when Daisy recounts her attempt to comfort McGraw which starts out quiet and well-meaning and ends with her as a blubbering mess, yelling about wireless connections and USB ports. It’s an insane transition.
Colorist Whitney Cogar shades flashbacks like these in a blue font, giving them a cool and quiet look. These are moments of reflection, even when they have a few laughs thrown in.
Esther floats through Giant Days #51 like a delightful goth pixie. Even though we feel bad for McGraw, you can’t help but get caught up in her excitement. She’s finally received some recognition for her work and she’s starting her journey into the world of adults with jobs and responsibilities. Letterer Jim Campbell adds some nice bolded spots to some of Esther’s dialogue to give it a little extra oomph and show how excited she is about all of this.
Giant Days #51 is simply beautiful from beginning to end. It’s an amazing story of grief, friendship, and love with equal parts drama and comedy. It is hands down, one of the best single issues of the year. I laughed and cried while reading this as it’s such a great emotional journey.