Review time! with Scenes from an Impending Marriage
The only exposure I’ve had to Adrian Tomine is through Shortcomings, which is a pretty good comic although not quite my cup of tea. His latest, Scenes from an Impending Marriage, is quite different from that, as it’s a series of vignettes about Tomine preparing for his wedding with his fiancé, Sarah. The collected edition of this book is published by Drawn and Quarterly and costs $9.95. It’s a trifle, but it’s a pretty fun one.
There’s not a ton to write about this comic – Tomine generally uses a nine-panel grid to tell his little tales about preparing for his wedding, with the main “narrative” – such as it is – punctuated with “Family Circus”-style full-page jokes every so often, with a single theme – Tomine will never do the things depicted after he’s married, which is a funny theme to drive into the ground (because so many things one does for and at a wedding are so rarely done elsewhere). Meanwhile, Tomine and Sarah simply discuss the wedding and the many issues that arise when you’re planning something so big. The book begins with the couple discussing the invitations (which leads to a wonderful gag when one of the invitees actually receives the invitation) and where to hold the wedding, which leads to some awkward moral questions (actually, quite a lot of this book leads to moral questions, oddly enough – Tomine and Sarah are “guilty liberals,” which Tomine pokes gentle fun at in the book). Then they have to find a DJ, which is harder than they think it will be, and finally, they get ready. In the epilogue, they have survived the wedding and are about to embark on their first night as a married couple. So that’s the “plot” in broad terms.
What makes the book delightful is Tomine’s keen eye for observation and his comic timing. None of what he writes about is all that surprising, and anyone who’s been married, even if their ceremony was far different than Tomine’s, can relate to what he and Sarah are going through. Even if you’ve never been married, Tomine does a very nice job showing the way a relationship works on a nuts and bolts level – neither Tomine nor Sarah are perfect, but they are a fine couple, and it’s fun to see them navigate the issues that come with a wedding, from trying not to offend either of their families to having to tell a DJ his music is not what they want. Both Tomine and Sarah have their own neuroses (something Sarah cleverly exploits on at least one occasion), but Tomine doesn’t allow that to overwhelm the book and he often makes it a joke (which isn’t surprising, considering that Tomine wrote it as a party favor for the guests, and they don’t want to see heavy stuff in their party favors!). But Tomine is good enough a creator that even as he keeps things light, we get a nice sense of how hard both he and Sarah are working to make this a wonderful day and how much they’ve worked to make their relationship better. This comic shows a strong, mature love affair, and it’s a pleasant change from the silly crushes many comic books deal with.
If you’re a fan of Tomine, you’ll probably like this comic a lot. If you’ve never read Tomine, this is probably a good place to start, because it’s not too heavy but it gives you a good idea of the kind of comic he creates. If you’ve ever been married, much of this book will feel very familiar – whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you. Scenes from an Impending Marriage is a slight comic, but it’s also a good one, and it’s certainly worth a look.