Written by: John Allison
Art by: Max Sarin
Colors by: Whitney Cogar
Letters by: Jim Campbell
The previous issue of Giant Days was all about Ed Gemmell’s adventure in Australia with his girlfriend Nina’s family. In my review of said issue I expressed concern that Ed’s self-pitying attitude towards Nina didn’t line up with Nina’s generously loving and welcoming behavior. In #45 Ed and Nina are back in the UK, and things are still not on an even keel. However, all of the issues of their relationship are piled onto Nina’s shoulders.
After a dinner date with Susan and McGraw (at which Nina gives a very flattering account of Ed’s time in Australia), Susan mentions that she has doubts about the longevity of the relationship. When McGraw asks why, she points out that Ed and Nina don’t have the same interests and that Nina is too outgoing for the likes of Ed.
After the dinner date Nina says that she really likes Ed’s friends and had a great time, once again verbalising that she is really making an effort for Ed. When Ed asks if she doesn’t miss her rowing club friends, she admits she does but that she is worried about the drinking culture of that specific group of people. Ed says he trusts her to not drink too much after their prolonged sobriety and encourages her to go to the rowing club social.
Not entirely surprising, Nina gets very drunk at the rowing club social. And from hereon Nina is portrayed as a car crash of a person. Ed is ready to throw in the towel immediately because he doesn’t want to take care of an alcoholic. This is presented as the main issue of their relationship: Nina has a drinking problem and is too wild and too outgoing, and Ed gives up too easily.
At the end of #45 Esther tells Ed not to give up, to remember that they had fun up until this point and that he should try and work through the problem of Nina’s drinking habits. But is this really the problem? Because to me, still, it seems like the problem is that Ed is so obsessed with his own fragile masculinity and ego that he can’t see how committed Nina is to this relationship. To illustrate: Ed hasn’t told anyone about his time in Australia because he is too embarrassed, not about the way he ruined the whole trip by sulking, but because he wasn’t ‘manly enough’ for Australia. Nina protects his ego by telling the story in the best possible light. She basically shouts off the rooftops how much she loves him, and her remorse when she slips into her old drinking habits is enormous.
But what does Ed do? He seems relieved that Nina has done something ‘wrong’ so he can just reprimand her and feel superior, and this confirms his feelings that she is out of control and shouldn’t be with someone like him. Ed gets away with a slap on the wrist from Esther whilst Nina is wracked with guilt and remorse.
I love Giant Days mostly because it is so recognisable to someone who went to university in the UK. But the flipside of that is that, this frankly terribly annoying and toxic behavior from Ed Gemmell is also ever so familiar. It would be great if on behalf of all women who have ever dated English boys in their early 20s, Nina told Ed once and for all to get over himself and how she is most definitely too good for him and his nonsense. She deserves better than this! #TeamNina all the way.
That said, it is great that a comic about the British university experience addresses the issues with the associated drinking culture. It is very difficult to abstain from drinking as a young person in a culture where the majority of socialising is done over alcohol, and not just if you’re part of a sports club. Within the context of university life drinking is seen as a prerequisite, even if you regularly hurt yourself or others when drunk. Giant Days points to the problem of this attitude and shows the help and alternatives that are available, and does it in a way that is true to the characters and the Giant Days universe.
As always I’m excited to see what John Allison has in store for the next installment, and as always I have faith in this comic to deliver on a thoughtful exploration of the issues it deals with, whilst remaining a fun place to escape to.
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