Josh Lesnick’s girly, reviewed by Wednesday White

When Josh Lesnick wrapped up Wendy and Cutewendy a while back, fans despaired. There was porn anthology site Slipshine (not safe for work!), which Lesnick maintains and contributes heavily to, but not everyone was after that sort of thing. (Sigh.)

Some just missed the adorable, surreal, little lesbians. Cutewendy had built up a following independently of its parent comic, and ran in its own continuity. There was plenty of room left to play in its world when Cutewendy ended. So, fans of both porny and nonporny Lesnick were delighted when, at long last, the dildo fell.

At the end of Cutewendy, titular character spontaneously married her sidekick. And yea, Cutewendy did father a child upon her sidekick. Their daughter, Winter, has now grown up enough to desire a sidekick of her very own. Wandering homeless, she latches onto the melancholy Girly. (We have nothing else to call her; no one knows her name.)

Describing girly without referring back to Cutewendy is awkward. The former doesn’t rely upon familiarity with the latter, but does benefit considerably from knowing what’s gone before. Winter notwithstanding, the tie is strongest in the little details. It’s easy to imagine the insidiously inflating baby-lover or the useless teenager in Cutewendy‘s time and place. Steak, girly’s ex, could have courted anyone from the Cutewendy days, and have been rejected just as soundly.

The details are more subdued than Cutewendy, though. Another benefit of comparison is contrast. If this universe is bipolar disorder, girly is the high end of a depressive cycle. The frenetic energy is just a little out of reach, in recent memory and in plain sight, but it’s buffered. Girly herself, dysthymic and disaffected, sends those who irritate her into space; it’s easier that way.

It’s a little difficult to tell where girly‘s story is headed. There are a couple of threads going on which haven’t had the chance to come together properly. Installment reading and contemplative pacing (masked by the manic events themselves) exacerbate the sense of disconnection. In time, this should self-correct; Lesnick updates girly somewhat irregularly, out of necessity, and the strip is still relatively young. Already, the flow improves when large chunks of the archive are read in one go.

Chiefly, we have the budding — and potentially romantic — relationship between girly and Winter. In between Having Adventures, Winter camps out in girly’s yard. This might be a love story, or a friendship with undertones, or a mirror of what Winter’s parents had; it’s too soon to tell, but Winter’s just made Girly smile. And made her angry. Par for the course, really.

Meanwhile! The mysterious El Chupacabre (a descendant of Cutewendy’s El Diablo?) is ravishing the city’s beautiful women, leaving them in postorgasmic stupor. He is pursued by the Mulroney-chinned (or Leno-chinned, if you’re not Canadian), overenthusiastic and undercompetent Detective Clampjaw. The real work is carried out by his niece Nickel, and the reference is made quite clear. They’re all well and good, and it makes sense that they’re in girly’s bizarro city, but the arcs would do well to draw together quickly — so far, this is the weaker of the two. (reviewer’s note: since the writing of this review, the most recent installments of the webcomic have begun to address these very plot issues.)

Lesnick’s distinctive artwork has improved markedly since Cutewendy, primarily when it comes to human figures. His Slipshine oeuvre is clearly paying off here as well as there; every character benefits from tighter rendering, better proportions and more dynamic poses with every passing strip. The people aren’t the sole beneficiaries, though. The city becomes less of a background and more of a place. The comic features heavy use of digital tone, which is sometimes a little painful on monitors with low refresh rate — this won’t be an issue in print, but is awkward in the meantime. The whole comic is suffused with pink, lending a distinctive touch, but the tone can occasionally add jarring, greenish details when compressed to GIF.

At the heart, girly is a gentle story that doesn’t want you to know that it’s a gentle story. It’s lovingly crafted, occasionally poignant, and just a little bit removed from itself. It’s also young, bearing the illusion of greater length by dint of loose sequelhood, and still getting a feel for itself. When it’s done kicking chin-heavy law enforcement into reader space to avoid dealing with itself, it’ll be fantastic. Right now, it’s engaging and sweet; that, in and of itself, is no mean feat.

Besides, girly has one advantage over Cutewendy: kitty poking.

Wednesday White is a contributor-at-large for the Comixpedia

Wednesday White