Title: Summer Blonde
Author: Adrian Tomine
Rating: 3.5 / 5
I like Adrian Tomine’s work. My favorite thing about it is definitely his art. I love his style–the crisp, clean lines and the excellent shading. His comics are one of the most if not the most visually appealing comics I’ve come across. I love his art and I would give a lot to be able to crank it out myself! It’s just so…tidy. I love his aesthetic. And I also like the way he tells his stories–the facial expressions, the balance between narration and speech bubbles, how the stories flow.
But I don’t always like the stories themselves or the content, and maybe not even Tomine himself (the interviews I’ve read tend to rub the wrong way–not to a very large degree, but still). I’ve read one other collection of his, Killing and Dying, which I thought was better than this one. For one thing, there’s color in Killing and Dying, and instead of making things less tidy it just seems to make them more so. And for another, there are over ten years between the publication of this book and of that one, over ten years in which Tomine probably, uh, “got over” himself a bit (that sounds kinda harsher than I want it to :\). This one definitely had more of a “teen angst” vibe. All the stories were very similar thematically, and although there is a similar theme running through Killing and Dying, it seems like Tomine matured a bit by the time he wrote it. I felt the stories in Killing and Dying were more diverse and less one-note than these stories. While all his stories have elements of melancholy, this collection didn’t have as much human connection in it. Also, there are only four stories in this collection. More stories!
I liked “Summer Blonde” and “Hawaiian Getaway” the best, the former because it’s pretty creepy in a way that feels very real to me, and the latter because I thought the narrator was interesting. Tomine deals a lot with gender but it’s hard for me to tell how consciously he’s doing it with these stories. For instance, in “Summer Blonde,” is he trying to make a point about how men control women’s lives through proprietary feelings toward them, or not? In other words, is he just writing about what he sees and what happens in the world–a world which happens to contain a lot of entitled guys whose actions have repercussions for the female objects of their desire–in an unreflexive, uncritical way? It’s hard to tell.
All that said, I would devour any angsty story Tomine wants to write because wow. I really do love his art and the way he goes about presenting it and his characters. It’s a good reading experience and it’s fun to flip through and just stare at too. I wish he would publish more, but I guess this kind of storytelling can take a lot of time.