Help Us! Great Warrior
by Madéleine Flores
2016 • 160 pages • BOOM! Box
How great is Great Warrior? SO GREAT.
I love Madéleine Flores’ little femme warrior green nugget, probably because she’s cut from the same cloth as one Usagi Tsukino: ferocious, childish, good-hearted, and always up for pizza, cute boys, and fancy clothes. Great Warrior catsits for cosmic deities. She slices sea monsters in half just to get her chips back. She eats an entire “cursed” pizza to save her village. (So brave.) All of Flores’ Great Warrior comics are funny little one-off gags featuring Great Warrior going about her unique lifestyle, with occasional recurring characters like Great Warrior’s other little green nugget buddies and cute warrior girl Leo.
So for Great Warrior’s print comics debut for BOOM! Box, BOOM!’s “gleeful” imprint, it was time to tell an ongoing story with Great Warrior and her buddies. So enter Hadiyah, the High Chancellor, who tasks Great Warrior with dealing with the sudden influx of demons in their world. Unfortunately, Great Warrior does not want to go a demon-hunting, especially when there’s a party in her village. But eventually, Hadiyah convinces (or just straight up tricks) Great Warrior and her best warrior buddy Leo to help. Which is how they discover a big secret about Great Warrior…
Help Us! Great Warrior effectively scales up Great Warrior’s shoujo anime fantasy world, introducing Demonside and the Demon King as antagonists and letting Great Warrior dodge responsibility. I did find the latter a little odd at first. Part of the charm of the one shot comics is how gung-ho Great Warrior is about marching into battle and using her awesome skills, like when a passing dragon bodyshames her and she snaps it in half with her mighty thighs. There’s a good reason for it, in the end, and there’s plenty of mileage to be gotten out of Great Warrior’s efforts to dodge Hadiyah, so I was eventually won over.
The comic is also the kind of effortlessly diverse that all media should really be. Of a tiny cast composed mostly of little green nuggets (and one giant green nugget later on), the only two human characters are Hadiyah, who clearly wears a hijab, and Leo, who is revealed to the reader as trans when Hadiyah comes across her birth name on a scroll and immediately fixes it for free. And I’ve always really loved how willfully femme Great Warrior is, despite not having any secondary sexual characteristics, realistic or overdetermined. Coming across the one shot comics a while back helped me to decouple physicality and gender in a really useful way. Help Us! Great Warrior is decidedly girly, in the best possible way, and part of that includes a cast that ultimately boasts four very different female characters.
Which makes it perfect for younger audiences. I kind of feel like Help Us! Great Warrior is specifically skewed a little younger than the one shot comics. It doesn’t feel like a context in which we would find Great Warrior checking out a book of saucy wizard pinups or hitting on military commanders via three-eyed ravens. I’m not saying that as a complaint at all, because Great Warrior’s best elements—representation, positivity, and sparkles—should definitely be aimed at and accessible for kids of all genders. This is the kind of comic I would totally hand my beloved niece, Little Fang. In, like, a few years, as Little Fang is currently a little potato baby that, come to think of it, looks not unlike Great Warrior herself, complete with overdetermined bow. But the ending is, not to spoil, surprisingly bittersweet, and a little too much so for my tastes.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my mixed feelings over this, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Help Us! Great Warrior (the graphic novel) is just a different animal from Help Us! Great Warrior (the one shot comics). Transitioning into serialization is difficult—note how many television shows based on films have sputtered out and died the last few television cycles. (This is anecdotal based purely on what I’ve absorbed via osmosis, as I no longer have time to watch television. Unless it’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars, for some reason.) And while Help Us! Great Warrior definitely transformed into a slightly different creature, it’s still a wonderful comic—in either format.
I rented this book from the public library.