A low-key bubble episode entry in GLOW‘s latest arc shows improvement in the storytelling of its writers.
Note: this review originally ran on Set the Tape (link).
At what is presumably the halfway point of AJ Mendez and Aimee Garcia’s run with the IDW GLOW spin-off comics, I think I finally get what they’re going for in terms of the intended structure. Issue #3 of vs. The Babyface contains only one sequence in which the main plot moves forward, here coming at the very end of the issue via cliffhanger, and the realisation sets in that the pair are not actually all the interested in their intentionally thin overarching plot. Instead, the kooky 80s family comedy/after-school special ‘tearaway neglected child’ plot is merely a device for the pair to view a series of lesser-spotlighted GLOW cast members through, cycling them around with each issue and having Sam be constantly drawn into and out of Elizabeth’s orbit. Their opener paired up Elizabeth with Carmen, issue #2 had Justine take over surrogate mother duties, and in issue #3 it is Melrose’s turn.
With that realisation having clicked, I’m now getting those low-key hangout vibes that Tini Howard’s original run with the series provided where the greater themes and forward momentum of the larger plot takes a backseat to just hanging out with the GLOW gals, an ensemble who remain one of the most entertaining regardless of whether the medium is comic or televisual. As mentioned, #3 pawns off Elizabeth onto Melrose, the ever-horny and fowl-mouthed fashionista of the group whose services are bought off by a generous 70/30 split of the cash in Sam’s wallet once his car is returned. Melrose has largely been a comic figure throughout the franchise, the token somewhat selfish teammate who’ll gladly drop everyone else at a heart beat if it means she’ll be able to get some action with a hunk, but her time with Elizabeth allows us to view those egocentric outbursts over her looks and age through a more vulnerable and, eventually, empathetic lens, of what happens when she puts such behaviour into more well-intentioned channels such as her rant at a club bouncer who denies her and the 10 year-old Elizabeth entry.
There are even hints of Melrose displaying growing maturity as the issue winds to a close, and the execution in Garcia & Mendez’s script and Hannah Templer’s artwork is just strong enough to override the generally repetitive nature of the run so far – there’s a formula in each issue’s Elizabeth plot that’s becoming readily apparent – and the perhaps inadvertent undertones of traditional gender role instincts being the catalyst for such change, when part of the joy of GLOW has been the wide spectrum of femininity and womanhood the franchise captures. Still, it’s at least a better presented issue than the first instalments in the new run. Mendez & Garcia reel back on the word-dumps more often than they have up to this point, and that allows Templer and designer Christa Miesner more space to breathe when laying out their pages and specific panels.
As with last time, this best pays off in the Arthie & Yolanda runner, here involving the duo stalking Yolanda’s ex to see if she’s cheating on her new beau because Yolanda is very obviously smarting from having been dumped. Whilst still largely disconnected from the other plots – again, at this point, all three of the run’s plots are rather segmented – and again being dispensed with through one long interlude in the issue’s middle, there are a few lines which tie their adventures into the GLOW plot and it’s another sweet check-in with the pair. Templer & Miesner get to play around with the panel constructions in a manner that this particular run has somewhat avoided to now, plus some nice incidental visual gags involving angry ducks, whilst Garcia & Mendez manage to tie the excursion back into wrestling in a manner which makes sense and justifies their propensity for dialogue over visuals. If I’m being honest, this is the plot thread I’m most excited to check in on with each new issue.
Callum Petch, run away with me!