July 5, 2011

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Scenes from an Impending Marriage

Written by Adrian Tomine
Illustrated by Adrian Tomine
Drawn and Quarterly

I need to start this review off by giving the disclosure that my wife and I opted to elope, which up until I read this book I held as one of the best decisions we ever made.

Now that I've finished this cute little collection from Tomine, I am now prepared to consider upgrading that decision to "best decision we ever made" without the qualifier.

Everything that my wife and I wanted to avoid when we got married is brought up in this funny and frank series of quick cartoons by Tomine. From worrying over the guest list (which leads to one of the best jokes in the book, given the book is public) to hiring the right DJ to overpaying for clothes, Tomine shows that getting married might be the most stressful thing a couple ever does together.

The honestly with which Tomine portrays himself is refreshing. He doesn't attempt to make himself look good at the expense of others, nor pretend that he and his wife agree on everything. There are several points of subtle commentary, such as when the couple almost books a place with one-way glass to avoid seeing the poor neighbors or their extensive discussion of money use for the wedding even as they try to help at a food kitchen.

Despite all the pressures, Tomine and his now-wife pull through. They navigate the waters of getting married, and we get a few good laughs in at their expense. There's even a charming coda at the end that reminded me of something that could very well have happened to us had we opted for the more traditional route.

As far the book itself goes, this is a very slight volume. It reminds me of a gift book like they used to sell at Hallmark (perhaps they still do) where Charles Shultz would re-purpose a dozen or so of his strips under a theme like "love" or "friendship." I can easily see this being given out as a gift to prospective couples who like well-reviewed indie cartoonsts or who can appreciate refined and safe humor such as one might find in a literary magazine. Tomine's art is quite similar to Clowes, right down to imitating newspaper strips here and there with a running gag about stopping certain things after marriage. The whole thing strikes me as feeling very safe, which isn't a bad thing per se but if you prefer your comics edgier, you're going to be disappointed.

I had fun reading Scenes from an Impending Marriage, and I'm sure it will register (no pun intended) with many, many married couples as they read it. Just make sure you understand going in that unlike a good marriage, this book is over before you know it. I hope Tomine's relationship is a far more lasting experience!