Pullbox Reviews: Off Girl, volume 1 – A very different kind of origin story

Off Girl vol 1

(Heading) “With great pleasure comes great responsibility”

Julia Davenport has a… condition. She’s possessed by the demon Lilith, an entity with some seriously Old Testament level anger issues. While Julia seems to have things under control most of the time, she’s pretty outspoken about just wanting a normal life. That’s going to be a helluva trick, though, because when Julia loses control, when she is very… ahem… VERY happy, her demon is unleashed on the world. When that happens, as Julia’s pulse rate increases, so does the body count.

For the sake of clarity, let me drop the euphemisms. Lilith is released any time that Julia has an orgasm (Disclaimer: kids, if you don’t know what an orgasm is, ask your parents… if they look a little freaked, chances are good that you’re too young to read this comic). For that reason, she’s been suppressing her arousal using meds or just straight up avoiding any situation that could lead to her happy place.

And this is where a review could go in a couple different directions. With that in mind, the first thing I’d like to clear up is that Off Girl is not porn. Suggestive and adult oriented, absolutely, but Tina Fine goes to great lengths to keep her story just shy of graphic. Point of fact, there isn’t really any nudity to be seen, with Lilith’s appearance coming the closest as her pink bits are always obscured. That Fine line being walked (the pun was a happy accident, and I didn’t notice it until I started to edit this article) is one of the saving graces of this book. Fine manages to hit on a few subjects, from the suppression of a woman’s sexuality to general misogyny, and she does it while gifting the very likeable character of Julia with a sense of wry humor. When we join the story, Julia is very much aware of her situation, just not the true nature behind it. She’s been living with Lilith for several years, and is still working on finding some kind of balance in her relationships.

One area where Off Girl stumbled a bit, particularly in the early chapters, is in its transitions from one scene to another without a prompt or cue. It wasn’t until after I’d read Tina Fine’s bio and saw that before this comic series, she’d been working in short films. In fact, her original idea for Off Girl was as a short film or series, and that explained where scenes would just flip from one to the next. Those transitions are obvious in live action or animation, but less so in comics without a little help. That help can come from a change in color palette, or the use of text boxes (“Meanwhile…”). It looked like Fine had caught onto the problem around chapter 3, as that was when I started noticing more of the latter to help a reader keep up with where we were and who we were with.

As entertaining a read as Off Girl is, I’d be lying through my teeth if I said that Marc Reihill’s artwork wasn’t a big draw for me. He’s coming into this from a background in advertising & graphic design, and it’s interesting to see how much of that shows through in his work here. His characters are all gorgeously rendered, from facial expressions to posture, and the details are just about perfect. The panel layouts are pretty straightforward, never cluttered and leaving no doubts to where the focus is supposed to be. All of that praise leads into a couple minor issues I ran into. First, I appreciate a comic where the action gets a little messy. Reihill’s precise panels tend to look a little static, and some variations in the color scheme could have helped out in the scene changes. Also, there were a few areas where I thought there was a disconnect between what was being said on the page and how the characters were reacting… cases where characters are smiling when something bad is being said or done. I’m going to refer back to Marc Reihill’s background now. Most of my critiques are on things that would be perfectly fine in an advertisement where presentation weighs heavily over story progression. As this is Reihill’s first comic- a thing that still amazes me, given how fantastic Off Girl looks- I’m looking forward to seeing how he adapts to the format of sequential art & dynamic storytelling.

This is a comic that works on multiple levels. Tina Fine has managed to wedge elements of comedy, horror, & social commentary into a tightly packed story without suffocating any of it. She’s skirted the pitfalls of what could have been a comic all about the lowest common denominators, while producing something that’s edgy and provocative without being over the top. And I’m just gonna say it again, Off Girl is a gorgeous book and should be a success based on Marc Reihill’s work alone. Bounce over to OffGirl.com and take a look at what’s cooking, see if there’s anything in there you like… first issue’s free, but after that you’re on your own.

Final Score: 11/13

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