Friday, February 23, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #54: Lucky Penny by Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota

To be a sad sack, a character has to be sad. If she's just as put-upon by life, but has a chipper attitude the whole time, she turns into something else. I'm not sure if we have a name for that something else, but maybe we can start calling her a Lucky Penny.

Penny Brighton would be a Manic Pixie Dream Girl if she were a supporting character in someone else's story, but Lucky Penny is her story, so she's just manic. She's also a mess, but it's not entirely clear how much of that is her fault. In a fictional universe, luck can be a real thing that molds lives, and maybe Penny is just cursed to fail every single luck roll.

Her book is Lucky Penny; it's a comedy in graphic novel form -- not quite a romantic comedy, closer to a comedy of errors. It's by writer Ananth Hirsh and cartoonist Yuko Ota, who work together regularly and also appear to be a couple.

It opens with Penny, who is somewhere in her twenties but not precisely an adult, losing her clothing-retail job and her apartment in the same day. (The apartment should have been a longer-term issue, since her roommate Helen is moving away to get married, but I get the sense that Penny doesn't make "plans" the way other people do.) So, since her judgment and adult skills are so good, she moves into Helen's vacated storage unit (cheap!) and cajoles Helen into getting her a job at the family-owned laundromat, where she will be bossed by Helen's kid brother David. (I can just barely believe in a laundromat that has one person working there full-time, to watch it, but two at once? That doesn't seem right. What do you do working in a laundromat?)

Penny is energetic and lackadaisical and would be happy-go-lucky if she consistently was lucky or had more things to be happy about. But either her own lack of adult skills or the weight of the universe continually throws obstacles in her way -- luckily for her and us, this is a comedy, so they're funny obstacles. She does fail to plan for a lot of things -- how will she stay warm in that unheated storage unit? how will she handle showers and other bodily needs living there? what kind of security does a roll-up door provide when you're inside it? is she saving up to get an actual apartment? does she go shopping for food ever, or just live on her own manic pixie energy? -- but, again, this is a comedy, so I should just relax.

And it is funny. Penny is a Weeble -- she gets bounced around, but nothing in this particular fictional universe can actually knock her down. This is not the story of how she learns adult skills and finds a sensible apartment that she can afford, and starts taking night classes in double-entry accounting to get her foot on the ladder of success. It is the story of how she meets a cute guy at the community center, tries to scam him to get free shows, and ends up dating him in the end. Oh, and saves him from her evil boss's plot of destruction, because Lucky Penny makes a hard left turn into another, but equally silly, genre at the end.

This is not a book to take seriously. Penny is a world-class goofball, and her world has strong goofball tendencies to begin with. And that ending genre-switch comes totally out of nowhere. But it is funny and amusing: Hirsh's dialogue and captions are smart, and Ota is a fine cartoonist of moods and manic energy.

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