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‘Penny Nichols’ (review)

Written by MK Reed and Greg Means
Illustrated by Matt Wiegle
Published by Top Shelf Productions


Top Shelf continues to be one of the best comic book companies in the business.

If you’re reading a book from Top Shelf, you’re know that you’re in for a real treat.  This book is another feather in their cap. It’s a book that reminded me of the earlier work of Jeffrey Brown, but it’s totally it’s own thing. I loved every moment of it too, and actually related to a lot of it.

The opening few pages of the book have our protagonist, Penny Nichols, showing up for work at a fitness expo. The thing is, she’s not physically fit and is a big heavier.

But she goes and takes the job anyway.

It turns out to be  just another in a long line of bad and disappointing temp jobs for her. She shows up and the person running one of the kiosks takes one look at her and is disappointed.

She is not exactly what they were looking for and the person running the place yells at her and makes  Penny feel awful about herself. The writers make it an emotional comic right off the bat and it gives the book a certain tone that I liked.

We get to see Penny interact with the people at the convention. And it’s painful as can be. Writers MK Reed and Greg Means really know how to make the reader squirm and we learn a lot about Penny in the first 20 or so pages in the book. The body language and facial expressions are priceless here as well. Artist Matt Wiegle is a find and he really shows that he has chops throughout the book.

Then the book takes a strange turn which I absolutely enjoyed. Penny falls in with an amateur film production company that is producing a horror film. And from there I just completely fell in love with the book. The two filmmakers Penny meets are hilarious. The best scene of the book is at the beginning of chapter two. Penny meets with the two filmmakers for lunch and it was a laugh out loud scene. They explain their movie to her and it sounds completely insane. And of course, she signs up to be a part of it.

The rest of the book shows the results of that decision. It’s fun and breezy and just fantastic. Through it all Penny finds out who she is as a person. She finds her place in the world as well. The creativity of the horror film set becomes something bigger for Penny than she could ever have imagined and it’s wonderful to see her personal discoveries.

So, this story is simply amazing. I read this book twice, quite honestly. It drew me in and I couldn’t put it down each time. The horror film setting is nicely researched and feels real. The characters are too. When you put that together with a strong story, you get one of the best books of the year. The creators make everything in this book the best it can be. It’s a lovely and intelligent experience from start to end that entertains in a way that feels new. Bravo.




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