Girl JuiceGirl Juice

Creator: Benji Nate
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

The formula for fun is feminine as fuck in Benji Nate’s newest hit, Girl Juice. Born from the 2021 pandemic woes of wanting to be a hot and silly twentysomething and IG FOMO, Girl Juice was on yours, my, and everyone else’s timeline every other day with another 6-panel strip to vibe check our lives, and see us for who we are in the moments between stories.

Girl Juice follows a Sex and the City-coded household of twentysomethings in a nondescript American suburb. We follow Nana, a Hispanic-coded clown-obsessed grocer, Tula, a SE Asian-coded minimum wage worker-slash-vlogger, her gf, Sadie, and a sex worker-coded layabout named Bunny who doesn’t work, pays her share eventually, and is largely the foil to everyone else’s straight man. While largely painting Bunny as a lazy, vapid no-good illustrates a poor picture of coded sex work, Nate gets around to this portrayal, and reveals she secretly works a minimum wage job. Barring this one odious characteristic, Nate keeps the party focused on unhinged ratchetry and relentlessly, unabashedly feminine gross out jokes. Behind Bunny’s haughty, intrusive-thought-spewing design is a formula that churns out today’s high level observational humor as much as its slice of first-world millennial life.

While most humor comic strips stick to a four panel formula of: hook, setup, twist, punchline, Nate has found rhythm by adding two more moments per page. Simultaneously a perfect use of the 60s Marvel 6-panel grid and as a result of IG’s square image love, Nate steered clear of the 4-image IG comic style (four square panels followed by all four panels in one page or maybe a patreon ad), but had to evolve the joke format to suit her needs.

Panel 1: the lead-in or hook; often a question.
Panel 2: setting the scene.
Panel 3: expanding upon the idea.
Panel 4: follow thru or twist 1.
Panel 5: the punchline or twist 2.
Panel 6: a second punchline; often conversational humor used as a button.

In this style, Nate grounds our immersion for what could be a trite, quick hit of endorphins into consistently rewarding gags. Sometimes Nate stretches her 6-panel formalism to widen a frame, embiggen the moment, but mostly sticks to her lane successfully.

Look, the formula here works. Nate designed the Girl Juice girls with big, rough hands, no noses, and allowed some inherent creativity for their Outfit of the Day looks. Think Katie Skelly with the occasional Kate Beaton expression to help sell a gag. Dyed in cobalt, puke green, mustard, and bubblegum, the flat color palette feels streamlined for daily production and keeps the thick shaped, thin lined Girl Juice world saturated enough for a candy shop, but mellowed out like skater chic at your local Zumiez. The biggest design letdown is maybe the on-off remembering to draw Bunny’s left arm tats or Sadie’s shin tats. A blight on an otherwise adorable cast set to be immortalized in enamel pins from here to eternity.

Only other drawback is the reading hierarchy sometimes jumbles about in busy panels, causing some pacing issues for the punchline or button press. Aside from that, the slight italicization of Nate’s hand-lettering feels like it comes from the handwriting of it all than intent. If you’re not a lettering aficionado, then you’ll be able to easily look past this to spot some fun, expressive puffy cloud-ass sfx pillowed into a frumpy world where dialogue is thought balloon-shaped.

Besides an uncensoring from IG’s restrictions, Girl Juice comes with a 66-page one-shot focused on Tula’s Utube career and subsequent haunting. There’s some Fleabag-timely hot priest in there and a cool return to Nate’s thin line style to present otherworldly presence in GJ’s thick form world, but it’s mostly just more Girl Juice, and everyone loves more of a good time; specifically the Girl Juice household. Enjoy!

Girl Juice is available to order now.

Check The Beat’s review section for a new graphic novel review every Friday in 2023!