GRAPHIC NOVELS

Killing and Dying

(text & illus.). Drawn & Quarterly. 2015. 128p. ISBN 9781770462090. $22.95. F
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Tomine's (Shortcomings) stories, most from his Optic Nerve minicomics, deftly invite reader empathy for ill-at-ease characters you might not want to meet. A gardener feeling unappreciated devises an art form he dubs "hortisculpture" but attracts no aficionados. A young woman is mistaken for a porn star. Two marginally functioning people bond at a 12-step meeting, with complicated results that do not end well. An estranged mother addresses a diary entry to her absent son. A veteran at loose ends gravitates to an apartment he shared with his former wife—but while trespassing must deal with an actual burglar. In the superb title story, a father and daughter warily negotiate her foray into stand-up comedy while mother dies of cancer. Tomine's clean-line realism varies, some stories full-color, some halftones, others having a brushwork feel. Several times he runs one narrative via text and another via drawings.
VERDICT With deadpan rather than dramatic art, Tomine's tales show off his mature skill with storytelling, dialog, and character. Those fond of slice-of-life comics will like this, and teachers of narrative techniques will find it helpful. Adult situations and language but minimal explicitness.

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