Ryan Armand's "Great": Life Unfiltered / by David Anderson

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The next sentence after this one may be a violation of professional conduct and so I apologize in advance, but it's the only way I can convey how I felt when I finished reading Great by Ryan Armand.

Holy shit.

I mean, I pretty much read it on a whim when KC Green mentioned it had gone to print in a recent post on his website. Once I got through the first five pages, though, I was sucked in. I finished it in a day, and it was awesome.

You might know Armand's work from Minus, a comic that got him nominated for an Eisner award a while back. His art style is unmistakable and his comics have been famous on the internet for years. Great was meant to be a casual time killer until he could come up with something else to do, but eventually morphed into its own epic tale.

Great follows the life of a normal twentysomething man who has just been laid off from his job and had his girlfriend walk out on him the same day. A not uncommon story in today's world, this pair of events are simply the beginning in long winding chain that leads him on the strangest path one can imagine.

The key catalyst that brings him out of the depression he sinks into following his misfortune is a simple infomercial ad in which a beak-nosed man tells him that in order to make things better for himself, he has to realize that change starts with himself, and that the first thing he needs to do is tell himself that he is Great, Dangerous and Too Fantastic for the world to keep down. Once he can believe that, he can achieve whatever he wants.

The life he leads from thenceforth is a roller coaster of good and bad, much of it the kind you and I will be forced to deal with sooner or later. The lesson he learned from that commercial, though, is the linchpin to his endurance and the motivation that keeps him going.

That determination becomes the theme of what is basically an unplanned opus. His desire to be "great" at anything that he does, no matter how insignificant it is, allows him to pick himself up out of his misery and make the best of any situation. It even gives him superpowers--super-speed, elite combat skills with a barstool and the ability to make everyone else around him feel better.

In fact I think I could even recommend it as a feel-good story you could turn to when you feel like crap, but then that's all dependent on you. Do you want to be great? Then follow this guy's example.

The entire style and word choice evokes comedy the entire way through. It might seem depressing at first, and there are moments when you will feel sad for the characters, but the tone is hopeful and that hope is buoyed by the slapstick comedy and wacky body language on display. This manages to make even some particularly violent or tragic moments still pretty funny.

The style is nearly identical to what was displayed in "Minus", with characters having simple details and stunted body proportions, exaggerated facial expressions and elastic bodies. Linework is the defining characteristic here; dark thick lines are used to give characters their definition, while thin, quick pencil strokes are used to provide shadowing and texture. The primary colors are black and white, and it all combines together to create the art style Armand is known for, which has a heavy Asiatic flavor to it.

The adventure is--and this is a new word for me--"maximalist", which I guess is the best way to describe it, because where you start and where you end are such totally different places you never would have guessed you'd end up there if you didn't read it. It goes from sad to happy to violent to hilarious in just a couple pages, sometimes in just a few panels. I have a fetish for uniqueness and so I really appreciate how the story plays out, because formulaic story lines are still pretty common; you never know what's coming next here, but you'll definitely look forward to it either way.

It's only 139 pages long so it's not much of a time-sink. It just came out in two print volumes as well; so why don't you go pick up one or both and show your support with some of your money? I mean, what are you doing with that cash anyway? Paying bills or something? Come on.

TL;DR: Great is a lighthearted story of a man who is determined to live the best life he can, even if it sucks. You could learn something from this guy.

Great is written and illustrated by Ryan Armand. You can read the entire thing here or, we would suggest you buy it from his store.