Off Girl Volume 1: Genesis
Tina Fine (writer), Mark Reihill (artist and letterer)
Originally published January 2017
Julia has a problem: when she gets off, men get offed. She’s kept this problem under control for the past ten years by faking orgasms and tamping down her arousal through the use of medication, but of course, that state of control can’t last forever. But her personal problems aren’t the only thing threatening the city. A dangerous serial killer known as Stiletto has been kidnapping, torturing, and killing women, and the police are stumped on how to stop him.
There are a lot of ways this premise can go, and all of them are very promising. But Off Girl, despite being a gorgeously stylized book to look at, doesn’t take the necessary leaps to make it as great as it could be by embracing the sex, horror, and satire for its mature audience. There are some truly amusing moments, as well as some shocking ones, but the story is hampered from the start by panels that leap from moment to moment, make a lot of assumptions about what the reader should know already, and offering some rather unrealistic reactions from all those involved.
The story opens with Julia and her friend Brittany at the bar. Her friend passes off Julia’s anxiety over meeting other guys as rebound woes, and isn’t overly sensitive to Julia’s concerns. Julia then ends up in bed with a gentleman caller, only to kick him out moments later when she remembers that she can’t take this relationship any further. The panels then hop to Julia speaking with her doctor, desperate for a renewal on a prescription for medication that she’s suddenly run out of. In her frantic encounter at the pharmacy, it seems that her orgasm problem is a constant, imminent threat. And, despite taking the pills, she gets aroused on a subway that happens to be filled with half-naked hot guys and subsequently unleashes her powers, killing them all. Though she expresses concern over the dead men, overall, the writing doesn’t fully reflect the emotional turmoil Julia is supposedly feeling. And when people—including her own best friend—do find out about her demon-producing orgasms, no one seems particularly surprised by it.
Nowhere along the way do we learn how Julia discovered that a demon entity called Lilith escapes her body to slaughter men, or how this path of erotic murder might have been explained to those around her. She escapes the subway slaughter with little trouble, and ends up with a family of scientists, who conveniently know something about what to do and say vaguely scientific things that imply they can help her. But this takes the story down a whole other unexpected path, the results of which are actually quite interesting and funny. From there, the story dives even deeper into twists and turns and conspiracies which lead Julia to embrace her abilities and become the superhero known as Off Girl.
Despite the disjointed nature of the plot, Reihill’s iridescent artwork holds things together with its fabulous, nightclub-like feel. Shadows come to life in sharp contrast to the soft glow and sparkle that surrounds objects and people in the forefront. Reihill’s career in digital advertising is evident in the way each panel is a work of art that looks like a convincing advertisement, and it’s his art that really sells Off Girl.
Julia’s story continues beyond this first volume, and I’d really like to see Fine take her time with the storytelling in order to reach its potential.