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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Lucky Penny. Ananth Hirsh (Writer), Yuko Ota (Art) Oni Press (2016)

A charming,engaging and great fun romantic story delivered with a light touch and quiet humour. Penny Brighton looses her job and her apartment on the same day, she find alternative employment (her boss is eleven and a half years old going on 55) and very alternative accommodation thanks to her ex flatmate. When Penny meets Walter at the local community centre (she had been searching for a free place to shower) it looks like she might been having an upturn in her luck and life. Smooth sailing is not Penny's forte and there are a lot of obstacles ahead, not least an very strange turn of events at the launderette where she works.
The female lead of a romantic comedy presents some very serious story problems for any writer, there is a requirement for them to be a little off centre but no so much as to be actively weird. They should be attractive without being wildly beautiful, they are an undiscovered jewel after all. The male lead recognises the qualities that she does not and brings then out for the audience. Ananth Hirsh takes this challenge and makes it look absurdly easy, Penny fits all the requirements and then does something extra, she is actually likeable. There is an appreciable difference between lovable and likable, creators frequently demand that we love their characters because they do and they are  just so lovable. Penny is much more interesting, she is likable and good company for the reader, she does sabotage her own life with flair, she is also genuinely unlucky. This creates an entirely unforced sympathy that is never traded upon, it is used to give her the space to fail and triumph with humour and charm.
Youko Ota'a art is a pleasure to read, the cast are expressive and full of life and energy, they respond vividly to their circumstances. Penny and Walter's  essential good hearted natures of  are evident without being flaunted, the art is both bold and consistently subtle. It bring out all of the aspects of the story and makes everything just exactly the right amount larger than life. There are frequent details that are a joy to read, I particularly love Penny's reaction to the realisation that she has packed away the car keys. It is just one of many treasures to be found. It is extraordinary how much detail Youko Ota has managed to include without ever cluttering any panel. The details proved an essential solidity to the story, they make the physical context very solid and frame the actions perfectly.
A romantic comedy is a tricky story to pull off, there are significantly more opportunities to loose the reader and there is very little cover for the creators. It is essentially a soap bubble, it takes very little to destroy it. With Lucky Penny Ananth Hirsh and Youko Ota have showed that they have the surest, lightest touch needed to produce glorious, charming and engaging soap bubbles that also have depth and subtle strength.

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