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Review time! with Scenes from an Impending Marriage

It’s a oddball comic, done as a wedding gift and now available to us, the reading public!

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.

5 Comments

Greg, get out of my head!

I posted a review of this today too.

I really loved it and immediately suggested to my wife that she read it. Have you heard Adrian and Sarah’s interview on NPR? It’s really cute.

funkygreenjerusalem

March 14, 2011 at 5:50 pm

If you’re a fan of Tomine, you’ll probably like this comic a lot.

And I did!

In the collection of Tomine’s sketchbook, is a section of one page strips he used to do for a local music street press mag, most of which were pretty funny, so I thought this was going to be good.
Was happy to see that just because he’s happy and in love, his neuroses haven’t gone away! (I’m selfish like that).

This came out a day or two before my sisters wedding – of which I had zero involvement in the organization of – but it gave me an appreciation of what they must have gone through to organize it, and more feelings of sympathy for those things that went wrong.

If you thought Shortcomings was well done, but not your cuppa, you might want to try Summer Blonde or Sleepwalk and Other Stories, which are collections of his shorter works.
Some are similar to Shortcomings, but there’s more humour and other varying factors that might make them more to your tastes.

Thanks, Greg. I’ve decided to get this.

Corey: Sorry for being in your head! No, I didn’t listen to the interview yet, but I saw that you linked to it on your blog, so I’ll have to get to it!

FGJ: Yeah, I have to get me some more Tomine. I’m lazy.

Dan: No problem, sir. I know you related a lot to Ben Tanaka, and now that you’re older, I wonder if you’ll relate to Tomine as he goes through this!

I never even saw this review when it was on the front page. I just picked Scenes up from the library and was sitting down to write about it and hit up Google to find some background information on Tomine, clicked on a random link, and here I am.

Personally, I never really got into Tomine. I have Summer Blonde but never finished it. I saw a video piece on NPR a while back on Shortcomings and it looked good enough to check out, but I just haven’t yet. This, however, looked really fun. And it was!

Both my wife and I read this (in no more than a combined twenty minutes) and agreed that Tomine is, at least as portrayed here, a lot like me. Meaning: I complained about all kinds of similar things with regard to our wedding plans. A unity candle? Lame. A white wedding dress? But white is sooooo dull. Bridesmaids and groomsmen? Isn’t it about us? Why should they get stage-time? I took similar pains with our wedding invitation and we did end up settling for an iPod for our music. Wedding planning made me grumpy.

I loved this book. Ten dollars seems a trifle high (I can get a volume of Yotsuba&, which I’ll enjoy more and more often for the same price. But still, little good book.

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