‘Girl Town’ by Carolyn Nowak is a graphic novel whose art panels scream a myriad of emotions, wrapping you in its colors, characters and situations. It’s a collection of short stories, all focusing on interesting women protagonists, who are friends, lovers and sisters to each other. The first few panels reminded me of graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi’s work, but soon, the similarities disappear.
There are a total of five stories in the book. I love the bright artwork, the LGBTQ+ representation, and the the blending of genres throughout the collection. Nowak gives us an almost American frat-like story in the first tale, while the second one titled ‘Radishes’ has a dash of Studio Ghibli like magical-fantasy elements. There’s a scene where the two protagonists go to an ‘all you can eat’ stall, and it strongly reminded me of a scene from the animated film ‘My Neigbour Totoro’, a Ghibli classic.
Nowak goes for a cyberpunk-like theme for the third one, about a heartbroken girl who buys a lifelike male companion/sex robot to comfort her. Titled ‘Diana’s Electric Tongue’, it’s my favorite tale, and isn’t too far from the reality of our times, where humans seek comfort in AI; it’s the only one that has a conclusive end too. Diana is the most relatable protagonist, reflecting our deep need to connect with someone who is ready to listen when we want to pour our heart out. Nowak’s art is vivid, bold and brings alive the tale in a manner that will stay with you for a while. The others aren’t as memorable.
What bugged me most about ‘Girl Town’ was how all the other stories end abruptly, leaving the reader disappointed, as you are left hoping for more. In-fact, after the first one ended, I went back to the earlier pages because I thought maybe I had skipped some! That’s how incomplete the tale felt. The fourth one was slightly confusing and irritating to read because a lot of script was squeezed between the art panels.
The last one was an intriguing tale of a recently divorced woman house-sitting her parents’ home with a friend. What starts off as a simplistic looking ‘holiday story’, gets poignant and has elements of magical realism infused into it. Just when you begin to hope for more plot, it ends!
If it hadn’t been for the hurried climaxes, I would’ve given ‘Girl Town’ a 5/5, but the story-telling is not consistent enough. So it’s a 3/5 from me.
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