Good As Lily -- ass-kicking girl-positive graphic novel for young readers

Good As Lily is the latest book from Minx, who publish girl-positive comics aimed at young readers, and it may just be the best volume in the series so far. I've been a fan of the Minx comics imprint since I read the first volume, The Plain Janes. Good As Lily comes from Derek Kirk Kim (author of the multiple-award-winning Same Difference and Other Stories, and new illustrator Jesse Hamm.

It tells the story of Grace Kwon, a young Korean-American girl who, on her 18th birthday, finds herself in the company of her six-year-old self, her 29-year-old self and her 70-year-old self, three women who become a part of her life as she finishes out her last semester of high school before going off to her freshman year at Stanford.

Grace is a perfect young adult protagonist, likable and flawed, insecure and brave, driven and oblivious all at once. She's in love with her drama teacher (and bent on rescuing the school play from budget cuts), surrounded by great (and flawed) friends, and embroiled in high-school dominance struggles that are savage as only school fights can be.

Kim's writing really shines here. In a few deft and spare scenes, he takes Grace (and her other selves) on a journey through which she is forced to confront and overcome her fears and flaws -- and not always with happy outcomes. Combined with Hamm's manga-inflected illustration, the story comes to life, making you root for Grace even as you facepalm yourself when she digs herself in deeper.

The Minx imprint is really top notch. Not every volume so far has moved me, but books like this one and The Plain Janes ensure that I'll keep buying the next book and the next and the next. Link


  1. Jeez…why bother drawing out a comic strip for plot like this? Why not go deeper into the little Minxes ‘ head and do it as a traditional-style narrative. I’m sorry but not convinced by this. Graphic novels have a real power to transcend genre and I think this is a worth-while idea but not for a graphic novel.

  2. Anonymous, have you actually read the work in question, or is this just an airing of prejudices? Good comics can be an extraordinarily subtle and effective narrative form. For instance, I challenge you to name any device in an all-text work of fiction that serves all of the functions of the running pirate comic sequence in Watchmen, and does it as gracefully and well.

    Your assumption that a straight text narrative would necessarily “go deeper into the little Minxes’ head” makes me wonder whether you’ve read a lot of comics.

  3. I have to agree. A graphic format has a lot to offer. It all comes down to density. The old ‘picture=1000 words’ idea. Done right, a single panel of a comic format can convey as much information as pages of prose text. Think about all the things that can be shown at once. Background details, setting, lighting, mood. Character appearance, emotion, actions and interactions. All in one panel. How much room would it take for a prose novel to thoroughly describe all of that?

    Sure, 99% of comics are silly junk. So is 99% of everything else. And the ones that rise above hit real heights.

  4. Don’t write off comics as being a kids medium. Its the same fallacy as thinking that animation can’t be used to address serious subjects.

    I like the look of this. Just because you can easily draw all women in graphic novels as a size 4 doesn’t mean you have to. This reminds me a lot of how the characters bodies were drawn in lilo and stitch. I like it.

  5. @#1:

    This is the same kind of ignorance that I see all the time when people assume that a movie or a TV show can’t be thought-provoking and in-depth. I agree completely with the 99:1 comment above: it applies to all mediums. There are some things that are *better* conveyed in graphical mediums. One thing I’ve always loved is the idea that a book is made by one person; a comic is usually made by two or more; a movie by hundreds. So you have the opportunity to peer into the minds of many.

    Manga/comics and anime/animation have proven themselves time and again as able to convey the same level of depth and complexity as pure narrative. In a different way, sure, but thank God for different ways ;)

  6. @Anonymous, LOL! I’m actually chuckling because you’re ripping on the implementation of a concept–but not the work itself! Ah, the hubris.

    Speaking of great graphically/novel-ly works, you kids hear that “Y the Last Man” is ending soon?

    BTW, please don’t post spoilers if you have an inkling as to how it ends. “Y” is one of my all time favs, and I hate that shit.

  7. derek kirk kim is a pretty awesome artist. He can cram so much emotion into one simple facial expression.

  8. Japan called, they want their Shojo back.

    /sarcasm :P

    Seriously, this sounds interesting..I’ll pick it up when I get a chance.

  9. Derek Kirk Kim did the writing but not the art for Good As Lily, though regardless I can’t recommend his work highly enough. I especially liked Same Difference.

    The first Minx book I bought was Confessions of a Blabbermouth, mainly because the art is by Aaron Alexovich (creator of Serenity Rose), but I literally wound up buying two more (Good As Lily and Re-Gifters) later the same day.

    The funny thing is, I do think that with Minx DC is trying to further open up/enter into the market for selling comics to girls that translated shoujo manga largely created. Of course, anything that expands the market for comics beyond the stereotypical consumers of superhero comics is a good thing in my book.

  10. Density?

    Skirt-lines up-down.

    Dense chicks who are feminine? Have you ever? Warm. Cuddly. No Princess attitude, nor have they any non-freaks-of-nature ever had that.

    Still to hard for find warm girls who are not apart of some clique who puts them at the BOTTOM of the pecking order (for being “fat”).

  11. If I could understand NikFromNYC I might agree with you, LDP.

    Is this cover drawn by Kim? Looks like his style. If Hamm has an analogous style that’s a great match. Same Difference has some great dialogue and characterization, too, so I hope Kim has brought that same sensibility to this despite just penning it.

  12. The cover is by Kim; the story art is not. Don’t we all think the argument about the legitimacy of graphic narratives has been established pretty well over the last TWENTY years thanks mostly to Moore, Miller and Gaiman?

    About this specific book, and Minx books in general, I disagree with the consensus here. I read Plain Janes, Confessions of a Blabbermouth, Clubbing, and Re-Gifters; I skipped Kimmie66 because I was so disappointed by them. The art is good and enjoyable. But I found the stories to be cookie cutter young adult “problem” novels for YOUNG girls, not for teens. They’re like after-school specials: teen girl has problem, likes popular boy, adults are absent and not to be trusted, girl ends up with geeky nice boy. I found them chaste, reductive romances with obvious social “messages.”

    For better YA graphic novels, I recommend Gray Horses by Hope Larson, and Runaways by Brian K Vaughan, author of the aforementioned Y the Last Man. For better YA novels, I recommend checking out the Printz award winners and nominees.

  13. Have to agree with Girl Detective. I won’t lie- I bought Kimmie66 to read by myself, but ended up gifting it to my 12 year old sister because, honestly, it didn’t deserve to sit up there with From Hell, The Surrogates, or even Dr Strange.
    I’ve read a few of the other ones, too. These are the kind of storylines that are in novelizations of preteen TV series. Like Girl Detective said, typical ‘problem’ ie parents don’t understand you, friends are jerks, boy doesnt know you exist, stuff like that, but with a twist, and it leads to generic stuff, packed in with a – sometimes flawed- moral at the end. I don’t have any reccomendations for young adult comics, though- but ‘Owlie’ was a big hit with my toddler cousin

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