things to read: Penny Nichols, a review.

I’ve had a lot of difficulties writing lately. I’ve been feeling.. cornered and trapped, almost as if I were in a rut. It’s been day in and day out, feeling I can’t write about the topics that come to mind BECAUSE I SHOULD BE WRITING ABOUT TABLETOPS OH MY GOD WHY AREN’T YOU DOING THAT. There’s been a haze, a fog around my brain as I try to figure out what to do and what direction to go in.

When I picked up Penny Nichols—a graphic novel by MK Reed, Greg Means, and Matt Wiegle—I didn’t know what I was expecting and was unaware of how much I needed to read it.

Penny Nichols works for a temp agency and lives a fairly unsatisfying life. She’s disillusioned by what society has told her to want (love, marriage, kids) and snarks her way through the unpleasantries in life. By happenstance, she ends up getting roped into an indie-produced horror film by some random folks at one of her many temp-gigs. Despite being friendless, hobbyless, and motionvation-ness-less, Penny finds herself getting sucked into the production in a way she never expected: holistically.

Penny spends money out of her pocket on it, spends countless nights on it, and finds herself getting sucked into every job on set imaginable. Despite all that, she’s enjoying herself. Between the sleepless nights and the long days on set, Penny finds friendship, pride, and purpose in the production.

The back end blurb honestly doesn’t do the tale justice. “Everything goes sideways. Soon her days are overrun with gory props, failed Shakespearean actors, a horny cameraman, and a disappearing director. Somehow Penny must hold it all together and keep the production from coming apart at the seams,” it reads. Despite the fixation on the troubled men on the blurb, I found very few of the characters truly distasteful by the end of it. Their flaws fail to capture the entirety of their character and you get a few pleasant moments from it all. Even Penny’s otherwise wasp-like older sister isn’t entirely awful and her final scene with Penny showed leagues of growth from both of them.

The fixation on the men in the summary betrays the strong notes of feminism carried throughout the book. I sometimes wonder if the one that wrote the blurb either didn’t understand the story, or truly truly did and they were making a fantastic point with it.

I’m not much of an artist, but I found myself enjoying the art as much as I did the storytelling. The shading is absolutely fantastic, showing you don’t need full color to stand out, and I fell in love with the expressions and body movement of the characters. The movie scene panels scattered throughout the book honestly gave me chills to accompany the goofy grin I had across my face.

Penny Nichols was an enjoyable read from start to finish and tells a strong tale of finding purpose in your hobbies and projects, as well as finding friendships and connections along the way. Whether or not it tried to be it, the story has a powerful metamodern theme behind it. While the character of Penny Nichols starts as the poster child of cynical misanthropy, the tale is ultimately one that stomps on apathy and complacency.

Try new things. Find what you love.

Then give it your all.

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