Writer: Joshua Luna
Artist: Jonathan Luna
Publisher: Image Comics
One of the joys of reading graphic literature, or any literature, is the discovery of a meaningful or symbolic passage that causes you to think of the big picture rather than this fictional world in front of you. Case in point is Girls #17, another fine installment by the Luna Brothers that further develops the line in the sand being drawn between the men and women of Pennystown. At nearly the half point of the issue, a bear chases the group of men that have taken leave of the women (The Winterís Tale and The Exterminating Angel danced in my head!). As the bear is about to maul Wes, a group of crazed girls attack the beast, literally ripping it to shreds. On the surface, we are supposed to be shocked by the savage nature of the girls, who tear the bear apart using bare hands and teeth. Behind the scenes, though, this is a telling passage that brings to light one of the most traveled concepts in popular literature and film, as well as everyday conservation: the constant struggle between civilization and nature. Thoughtful westerns such as The Searchers, Shane, and The Wild Bunch have all contributed to the discussion ably, as has The Lord of the Rings novels and The Life of Pi. In Girls, the bestial entities of the enclosed town are having their way with the civilized elements, murdering women and making men succumb to animal desires. Itís traditional survival of the fittest in Pennystown. The girls are not constrained by human emotions, so they have an advantage in a realm that has been cut off from traditional American civilization. But, as any scholar of this concept knows, eventually civilization destroys much of nature, as that is civilizationís primary weapon: death. So, even though I know that the ending of Girls will feature civilizationís final answer for the beautiful naked beasts, I am still thoroughly enjoying the route the Luna Brothers are using to get there.
As always, human issues are intertwined with the deadly menace of the girls, creating a connection between the human characters and the reader. At the beginning of the issue, Kenny is discovered by Wes after he has sexually engaged a large group of girls. Wes is shocked by Kennyís stupidity, but Kenny has a rationale that is not exclusively sexual. He says about Nancy, his wife, ďMy wife is ugly, Wes. And no, I donít mean looks. I mean her insides... Nothing I do or say is ever good enough for this woman. She humiliates me... in front of friends... in front of my kids... And what do I get? Older, Wes. Just older. My youth, my potential, my lifeĖwasted on a miserable old hag.Ē Itís a proclamation you have probably heard from married friends or family, or even seen on the tube or the big screen. The desperation caused by a loveless marriage has forced one or both of the partners to do something really out of character or demeaning. In this case, Kenny has given ammunition, in the form of eggs, to the enemy of the people of Pennystown simply because of the vindictiveness he feels toward his wife and his own life. Really, this is where the power of Girls lies. Many people see the cover or the beautiful interior art of each issue and think it is a horror story for post-pubescent boys and men looking for some sexy scares. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whether itís Nancyís forceful nature, Tedís regrets about hitting his wife, or Wesís strict adherence to the bounds of the law, Girls has a multi-layered story that focuses more on the human conflicts than the battle against the girls.
Speaking of Wes, one of the final scenes in issue #17 has a confrontation between him and the group of rogue men following the bear attack. The men accuse Wes of being controlled by the women from day one, which causes Wes to assert his authority over the group. As he points a gun at the men, urging them to follow him back to the house where the women are stationed, Ted approaches Wes with steeled eyes and punches him in the face. A fight ensues between the two, but eventually Ted bests Wes, beating him repeatedly and savagely until Wes is nearly unconscious. Obviously, Ted has not learned how to reign in his temper, but more importantly is the realization that he is resorting to the same brutality the girls employ. As a visual cue to the reader, as Ted is beating Wes senseless, the girls look on with emotionless faces, as if this is nothing new to their way of life. The group of Tedís men leave the scene, now in harmony with savage nature rather than the female-led civilization. But civilization has brutal elements as well (check out Nancyís uses for the captured men they have), so it will be interesting when the three groups meet: men, women, and girls.
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