Girl Town
illus. by Carolyn Nowak. 160p. Top Shelf. Nov. 2018. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781603094382.
This anthology gathers five stories, including one previously unreleased tale and two Ignatz Award winners. Though the entries cover a range of genres (sci-fi, realistic, horror, and more) and topics (astronaut school rejects, an emotional house-sitting stint), all explore discovering and accepting oneself. Refreshingly, female characters express vulnerability and strength. Relying on sturdy, at times unpolished linework and a palette of pinks and purples, the art depicts people of different body types and sexualities. The minimalist backgrounds and shading of many of the tales reflect the character-driven storytelling, although "Radishes" and "Girl Town" provide numerous detailed backdrops, and "The Big Burning House" stands out for its text-heavy presentation intermingled with other visuals. The lettering throughout is difficult to read owing to its angled, handwritten, and inconsistently kerned style, but the dialogue, while sometimes absurd, is authentic. There is some cursing, nudity (including a bacchanalia scene), and limited, unrevealing sex scenes.
VERDICT Empowering and beautifully haunting, this work will find its home among hard-core graphic novel fans and those seeking nuanced representations of women.

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