Killing and Dying – Adrian Tomine – Graphic Novel Review
Adrian Tomine is a graphic novel writer and artist. The 42 year old American is well known for his ongoing series Optic Nerve but in recent years has a turned out a number of impressive stand alone graphic novels such as Summer Blonde and Shortcomings. He has gained recognition for his work with the New Yorker, where he has created some memorable covers. This new work is a collection of short stories, all carried out in a variety of different styles and approaches.
The six short stories are on a number of different subjects with no one topic uniting the work. ‘A Brief History of the Art Form Known as Hortisculpture’ is a quirky tale about a gardener who creates a new art form which is a combination of horticulture and sculpture (which he calls Hortisculpture). This is largely in black and white with the odd panel in colour.
Amber Sweet is about a young woman that repeatedly gets mistaken for a porn star. This has full colour art and is less flippant in nature as it delves into the internet and the damage it can cause on the life of one unsuspecting individual.
Go Owls is a story about a couple who hook up through AA and their love of a certain baseball team. The sepia toned panels focus on the characters with little interest in the backgrounds. The couple are both quite damaged and their love is far from ideal.
Translated from the Japanese is a brief tale with beautifully worked art; all depictions of cities and buildings. There are no characters on display other than those passing in airports. The story itself is about international travel and a short relationship built up on a flight, that disappears as soon as they land.
The title piece ‘Killing and Dying’ is about a family whose Mother is going through cancer while their daughter is taking classes to be a stand up comedian. Each page has a mass of small panels, generally 24 on each with the odd interruption. It focuses on the individuals and keeps the story moving quickly.
The final piece is called Intruder and is another black and white piece with a rougher style of art. It tells the tale of a man who breaks into a house where he once lived, just to see the life of the new inhabitant.
There is something unusual about the combination of styles in this one volume. Some are clearly fully worked, with a huge amount of attention to detail while others have a much looser form of depiction, that must have been easier to produce. Why these works all found their home in the one volume is difficult to understand. It strangely feels like an anthology rather than the work of one man. Putting that aside, the stories do have a similar writing style and all his characters seem isolated or struggle to fit in with modern society. They are somewhere on the fringes and you can feel their angst. The art in the majority of the works here is visually stunning and he is one of the finest draughtsmen working in comics today, easily changing from buildings and landscape to people. He has a very clear sense of perspective and there is a sense of order in his art. This is another impressive outing from Tomine who continues to delve into the inner psyche of city living.