Review of Snotgirl #1

Snotgirl_01-1by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Leslie Hung & Mickey Quinn

A recent episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Part’s Unknown I had watched explored the heroin epidemic in New England and had a medical professional on that equate it to being an extension and by product of a much larger subsection of the population that is addicted to prescription drugs.  I’m familiar with both of these seperate but related phonemons  though had never put two and two together. That’s because while most estimate’s have prescription drugs as the most abused narcotic in the United States, it’s rarely talked about with any regularity; partially because we don’t fully understand their yet. We have centuries of people using alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, opiate plants & cocaine leaves. A lot of prescription drugs people are taking now were invented before I was born. Snotgirl #1 has a lot going on in it and that might be confusing for some readers but if you read it as a book about a person with mental illness being given drugs that we don’t totally understand; all of the disparate idea’s and details coalesce under the POV of how illness and the drug treatment for it are inexplicably linked in a way that’s intrinsic and for some people, deadly.

Snotgirl is about a famous fashion blogger named Lottie Person whose severe chronic allergies keep her sheltered from the rest of the world. While she’s by all accounts successful as a writer, her social life is virtually non-existent while her love life is in a rough spot. Lottie tries an experimental new drug to treat her allergies and things take a dark, unexpected and purposefully sudden turn at the issue’s conclusion.

Written by Bryan Lee O’Malley of the seminal Scott Pilgrim, the books writing goes in deep on it’s central character’s introduction and by proxy, becomes an interesting exploration of her mental instability. Presenting the image of near perfection through her online persona, the real life Lottie Person is a stream of conscious in  cluttered thoughts, drastic mood swings and a wavering self loathing. O’Malley’s strength in writing comes from creating subtlety out of Lottie’s unsubtle first person point of view. He uses her erratic internal dialogue to drive the comic’s story but it never goes way off the rails in spite of it’s protagonist because O’Malley’s focused purposefulness in his direction of the plot. Like Scott Pilgrim, Lottie is an imperfect hero that is perfectly relatable despite her troubles. How much of Lottie’s outlandish personality is a product of her medications versus her own issue’s is left up in the air and shown to be symbiotic of one another instead of having a clear line between the two. Artist Leslie Hung leans towards a cartoonish style with excellent panel construction and character design. The art has the feeling of a hyper stylized cartoon that’s still true to the real world analogies that it’s exploring. Hung gives Snotgirl #1 a studied contrast in surreal realism that helps nail down the comics themes through the expressionism in visual storytelling. Colorist Mickey Quinn is all bright hues against shades of white and cream that rounds out the books aesthetic nicely.

Snotgirl is a strong debut for the new series that establishes a world and comic singular to it’s creative talent while adhering to the books hyper realist setting. It’s very much in the style you’d expect from this team but it’s approach to it’s thematic contrasts are consistently unexpected and highly engaging.

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