Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Adrian Tomine's Scenes From An Impending Marriage: A Graphically Speaking Review

Words: Seth Kushner

If you’re like me, a  man who spent an inordinate amount of time involved with the planning of your wedding, then Adrian Tomine’s new book, Scenes From An Impending Marriage will feel painfully familiar. 

Tomine casts himself and his wife-to-be in short, personal vignettes leading up to their wedding day.  Each begins with a title panel; “Guest List,”  “Invitation,” “D.J.,” “Florist,” etc.  All topics covered with Tomine’s sharp eye for detail and nuance.


Most every short vignette is laid out in a basic nine-panel grid and structured almost like a Sunday funny with narrative build-up and comic pay-off.  It’s an effective formula to tell these tales and one similarly utilized to great effect by Dan Clowes earlier this year in Wilson, though with different intent.

The small format and 52-page length make it feel reminiscent of a Jeffrey Brown book, as does the somewhat sketchy style utilized here, as opposed to the artist's usual clean brush storkes.  But, the storytelling is all Tomine. 

Though his Optic Nerve series casts fictionalized protagonists, they always  feel very personal to the point when reading about the actual cartoonist and his life, it’s easy to forget he doesn’t usually cast himself in his work.

The cartoonist also manages to return to some familiar tropes of his work, specifically, his Japanese heritage.  In the section titled, “Florist," his future wife calls him out on wanting to hire a particular florist only because she’s Japanese. 
“You always just assume that the Japanese person is best!,” she tells him.  She then gets him to admit that his accountant, optomotrist and dentist are all Japanese.  Hmmmm…..I suspect many of us are guilty of what some would consider reverse rascism, but most would be not be too keen to admit to it.

Yes, everything covered in Scenes will feel familiar to all married folks who didn’t elope and Tomine makes the comics documentation of it all look easy, and that’s the trick, making it look easy.  Tomine puts a frame around a portion of his life and documents with simplicity and a wry sense of humor.