by Adrian Tomine
It's always cause to celebrate when a creator like Adrian Tomine comes out with a new book, and even more so when he continues to release his material in the single-issue format.
This issue of Optic Nerve contains two short stories inside of it, and another short strip of Tomine being an artistic Luddite making up the cover (no wasted space here).
The first story, 'Go Owls' is a wonderful study of an abusive relationship. A man meets a woman at a twelve step program, and the two of them hook up. At first, the guy is loving and supportive, but over time, Tomine's portrayal of him changes to show that he's really a bit of a creep. This guy is demanding and belittling, and also pretty weird in his pursuit of 'his sexy stuff', but the woman has nowhere to go, and so she stays with him. It's not as bleak as it sounds though - there are some genuinely funny moments, and the ending is downright awesome.
The second story, 'Translated, from the Japanese' is beautiful. It's narrated by a young mother who is returning to America with her daughter after a sojourn in Japan. Each panel is either architectural in subject, or an extreme closeup of the things around the narrator. None of the main characters are actually shown. Most of the story takes place on the flight to California, where a Japanese professor befriends and entertains the young girl. A flight attendant mistakes the trio for a family. Upon landing, it becomes clear that the woman's nuclear family is going through a bit of a crisis.
These stories show Tomine at his best. His pieces are literary and original, and show insight into the human condition. His art is top notch, and the only thing I have to complain about this book is that it's probably going to be another year before we see any new work from him. I cannot recommend this book enough.