A mysterious dome descends over an American town, trapping the inhabitants and causing all kinds of stress and suffering. Sounds familiar? Maybe you read Under the Dome by Stephen King, or saw the tv series based on that book. Maybe you watched the Simpsons movie. Who came up with the idea first? It’s hard to tell. King’s book came out in 2009 after an infamously long gestation, the Simpsons movie came out in 2007, but must have been in production for a year or two already and the comic series Girls ran for 24 issues between 2005 and 2007. The Simpsons version of the dome concept was mostly played for laughs but the King version and Girls have some similarities.
I stumbled upon the the bumper edition of Girls, which contains the entire run of the series. I mean stumbled as a figure of speech, though it could easily have been literal – the heavy thing could be used as a doorstop, or wielded as a deadly weapon. The authors – the titular Luna Brothers – are apparently a known quantity in comics, but I had never heard of them before. I ripped through the book in an afternoon. And I had a fairly good time with it, despite experiencing some deja vu and feeling a bit disappointed once I finished. It was worth the time spent reading it but I am not sure it would have been worth the cover price of $49.99, which seems a bit steep.
In Under the Dome and Girls, it’s pretty clear that the cause of all the mayhem is less important than the mayhem itself. The dome is just a McGuffin, in the same way that the zombies in The Walking Dead just serve as a cathalyst to show people (not) coping with extreme circumstances. In Girls, it serves to set up a war between the sexes, pitting men against women as a clone army of naked ladies wreaks havoc upon the trapped town. Yes, that’s right; a clone army of naked ladies. There are some baffling particulars here, such as the fact that the clone women lay eggs and there is a giant, hungry ‘sperm’ lying around in a cornfield. The situation is a lot more goofy than anything that happens in Under the Dome, which didn’t get around to being really silly until the finale.
King’s book and Girls both stumble when they get to the end. Any explanation for a giant dome descending from the heavens is bound to be giggle-worthy. In Under the Dome, the vague reason behind the event broke with the somewhat realistic tone of the rest of the book. In Girls, a silly revelation would have fit right in with the rest of the story, but the authors frustratingly refuse to explain some of the more interesting details they came up with. Either the Luna Brothers do have a bigger picture, but they were too subtle about planting the seeds, or they came up with some interesting ideas, but couldn’t figure out how to neatly tie them together. If readers want solid answers, they’ll have to come up with them on their own.
The writing is okay overall, with a large cast that gets whittled down as one bad thing happens after another. The ‘men vs. women’ concept feels a bit hamfisted at times, but has some intriguing twists. The assembled characters are interesting enough, though it takes a while for a lot of them to gain a distinct personality. Not helping things is the frankly mediocre art, which is especially lacking in the faces department. Some of the cast are hard to tell apart, only identifiable by wardrobe and a slightly distinct haircut. There were two characters whose gender I couldn’t figure out for a while, until this became clear from context. And there was an Asian lady I could only tell was Asian because of her slightly stereotypical speech pattern.
There is a weird suggestion at some point that gay men aren’t ‘real’ men, from a procreational perspective. This is somewhat offensive and the pseudo-scientific rationale for it doesn’t make sense. Gay men – closeted or not – have been knocking up women for ages. They can procreate just fine. It’s nice that an LGBT angle was included, but it turns out to be a set-up to a wrongheaded punchline.
It may take an few issues/chapters until you’re reeled in. The first issue feels clunky, setting up the main character in the book with a weird mysoginist rant. This follows a conversation between him and a female character who is suspiciously oblivious about all the double-entendres she drops. But as the attention starts to get more divided between the survivors, their various character arcs are involving enough to carry you to the admittedly disappointing end.
Girls comes in third after Under the Dome and The Simpsons Movie in my estimation, but despite the flaws, the story is interesting enough that you may want to check it out. If you have an afternoon to spare, are feeling dome-deficient and find it on sale.