Optic Nerve #13 (Drawn & Quarterly)


Rating: 5/5 – Tomine is a master at observing life and has crafted a unique comic

I’ve been reading Optic Nerve for years and the main complaint I have is that Adrian Tomine does not put it out frequently enough.  This is the kind of book that is absolutely top notch “if you like this sort of thing”.  It’s definitely not super-heroes.  This is something I love reading in comics format, stories about people living life when done by a masterful cartoonist.  Tomine fits that description.  Strangely, I absolutely hate this genre in TV & Movies, but in comics format, I eat it up.

If you’re lucky enough to have a comic shop that carries this book, please pick it up and read the 1st page (partially revealed by the 2/3 cover).  It’s a stand-alone strip with Tomine lamenting current culture.  He visits a variety of brick & mortar stores looking for various items only to have apathetic clerks tell him he’d be best off finding what he’s looking for on-line.  He moves from that to the main story of the issue “Go Owls” which falls into the genre of observing 2 people meeting, falling into a relationship, and focusing on various moments in their life.  The guy is a real jerk, the girl is too needy, and you just can’t look away until the story reaches it’s surprising and oddly satisfying conclusion.  The moments Tomine chooses to zoom in on are seemingly random time slices and serve to beautifully illustrate the core of both characters and the dysfunctional relationship they have formed.  This is not a happy story, but illustrates life as people muddle through it and make and live with their decisions, masterfully switching from moments filled with humor to darker incidents to achieve a balance that shows why Tomine is a master of his craft.

The final story is an illustrated letter from a woman to her child recounting the trip they took from Japan to the United States.  This story does not show either of the subjects, instead choosing to show the environment they are moving through juxtaposed against the text of the letter.

I cannot recommend Optic Nerve highly enough.  At $5.95 for 33 pages, this is the exact kind of thing I’d be complaining about if it was a mainstream super-hero book published at this price point for this amount of content.  As it is, I am quite happy to pay the price for the master-crafted work that Tomine puts on the page.  The difference is that this is something you will find nowhere else.  It is unique.  A combination of character-driven storytelling with a crisp art style makes this a “must read” for me whenever a new issue appears.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall – bob@comicspectrum.com
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