I’m not going to pretend what it’s like inside the mind of a dorky teenage girl struggling to get through her days of school, because first of all, I’m not a dorky teenage girl struggling to get through her days of school, and second, I have ‘’Literally by Ran’Deesha Diaz’ to let me in on that world. If you’re looking for something a little different with great character and a promising premise then you might be interested in picking up this first issue. Literally is all about a young girl escaping the monotony of school life into her own fantasies, and to put it one way, it’s a bit like what if Tina from Bob’s Burgers were allowed to have her own show set inside her own imagination. It’s a little wacky, weird, but a lot of fun and chaotic.
The story revolves around Helen who, as mentioned, is the dorky unpopular girl at school that the other kids don’t get along with, but when she gets home though she’s something else entirely – a teenage warrior that fights monsters on the frontline of a fantasy world, and one of the greatest warriors alive. Helen is a badass killing machine and is surrounded by a cornucopia of interesting-looking characters that help her in the fight, and one of these characters is Commander – who Helen is seriously crushing on and their ‘relationship’ becomes the main focus of the first issue. The story needs some work though, in my opinion, although it is a great exploration of the life of a dorky teenage girl, it devolves into chaos really quickly and leaves the reader scratching their heads to figure out what happened. Everything revolves around the fact that Helen is fighting monsters in her spare time, but it’s never really brought up except in the occasional battle scene. There’s no clues as to why she’s fighting monster, or even, why monsters are fighting her?
When it comes to character I think Literally has a strong protagonist in Helen, she’s the kind of person you want to see succeed, especially at the beginning of the story, but she’s very different to the ‘dorky girl’ trope. For one thing she isn’t shy, she’s actually quite outspoken, and although she isn’t as pretty as the other girls she has amazing confidence in herself. Her only flaw, as I see it, is using her fantasies as a crutch for the real world and not facing the problems she has outside of them. It’s an intriguing character for sure, and she gets a lot of attention in this issue, so much that the other characters are kind of given generic personalities (although exotic and amazing designs) in comparison to her.
My biggest problem with this first issue though is that it feels really rushed. The first few pages are clean and pristine and coloured, and look ready for any comic book shelf, but after that the pages become a black & white mess and the drawing quickly becomes just scribbles on the page the more you read on and on. Which is a damn shame, I’d like to come into this issue feeling that the whole thing is complete and ready to go, but with this, it feels like not enough energy has gone into the last part of the marathon, and for that, the last half of the comic feels really rushed. That isn’t to say I don’t like the cartoony style though, I think it’s great and it has this really stylistic grotesque appearance about it, like Ren and Stimpy, but it needs a little bit more work to get it there.
Putting a long story short though, I really like the concept of Literally by Ran’Deesha Diaz, I think there’s a lot of potential here but the first issue needed a lot more work before it was put on the shelf – especially towards the end. Still, I think it’s worth checking out, it’s a lot of fun to read and there were moments that made me laugh, and really the only thing letting it down is the unfinished quality of the comic. I’ll let you be the judge though, go and check it out for yourself!