by Brad Sun. Quentin Tarantino calls it the “hangout” genre—patient, decompressed works with a cast that feel like intimate friends by the time the story is finished. In the world of comics, no one captures this better than Bryan Lee O’Malley. Despite his high concept premises, O’Malley’s true brilliance lies in his nuanced and effortlessly authentic characters.  Indeed, when his books become too plot-heavy, they can often feel confused and scattershot, bogged down by the dictates of over-ambitious story structure.

And so it would seem that Snotgirl, a new ongoing series following neurotic fashion blogger Lottie Person, would be an ideal vehicle for O’Malley. The long form narrative gives his unique brand of humor and insight room to breathe, even as Lottie herself can’t seem to catch her breath. Insecure and narcissistic, with a hyperactive mile-a-minute inner monologue, there’s scarcely a panel in issue one where Lottie isn’t lost in her thoughts or on her mobile phone. Like the heightened realities of his past works, O’Malley presents a world where the virtual takes precedence over the physical. Lottie’s allergy-afflicted personal life may be a steaming hot mess, but her pristinely perfected online persona is the only reality that truly matters… at least that’s what she keeps telling herself.

Such a character driven, navel-gazing narrative demands a strong visual flair to hold the reader’s attention, and this is where Snotgirl excels. Maré Odomo’s thoughtful lettering and design-focused text boxes ensure we are overwhelmed, but never confused, by Lottie’s relentless stream of consciousness. Leslie Hung’s illustrations merge sumptuous line work with a distinctly manga-inspired sensibility. The edge of a table or the hint of a sidewalk are all we really need to know about the book’s trendy Los Angeles setting. Hung understands that the real story is being told through Lottie’s obsessively maintained hair, her furrowed brow, and her perpetually runny nose. The visual tour de force is completed by Mickey Quinn’s colors—as lavish, confident, and cool as our protagonist desperately wants the world to believe she is.

Snotgirl #1 is a splendid piece of artistic synergy, and a testament to the freshness behind-the-scenes diversity can bring to comics… and then there’s that final page, an honestly perplexing cliffhanger that leaves me unsure what kind of book Snotgirl will ultimately end up being. My hope is O’Malley will continue his compelling character exploration without the need for the plot-driven trope-y melodrama issue one’s ending implies. Time will tell.

Image Comics / $2.99

Words by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Drawings by Leslie Hung.

Colors by Mickey Quinn.

Letters by Maré Odomo.

8 out of 10