The genius of Octopus Pie is Meredith Gran’s ability to lend humour to practically every panel and line of dialogue. Like Achewood or Scary Go Round, the strips avoid building to conventional punchlines, instead relying on a natural rhythm that makes this one of the most enjoyable webcomics around.
The comic centres on the life of Everest Ning, Eve to her friends: her room-mate Hanna, her job, her Brooklyn neighbourhood, her love life. Gran’s characters are carefully crafted and evoked in a way that makes them instantly seem familiar. It helps that her art is a clean, confident grayscale, walking a fine line between joyful cartoonishness and realism, veering one way or the other as the situation demands (her ability to draw a broad range of body types is particularly welcome).
The storylines are a blend of relationship drama, situational comedy and out-and-out surrealism, with the drama never totally devoid of humour and the comedy always rooted in emotional truth. A series in which Eve’s identity crisis is expressed through a Laser Tag battle between her Asian nerd friends and Hanna’s stoner pals is a particularly brilliant example of the storytelling skills on display. Everything about the strip feels modern and contemporary without being faddish or pop-culture-obsessed.
Octopus Pie has been running for over three years, giving it a healthy but not daunting backlog of material all still available free online (a print anthology has also recently come out). Now that it’s returned to a thrice-weekly update schedule, it’s time to put it on your reading lists.
Violence: occasional, cartoonish
Sexualized Violence: none
Gender: a mostly female cast
The Bechdel-Wallace Test: passes almost constantly
Minorities: main character is Chinese-American, generally diverse cast
Parents May Wish to Be Aware: occasional nudity and frequent casual swearing and drug use mean Octopus Pie may not be suitable for children.
Review by Sean Halsey