cover image Killing and Dying

Killing and Dying

Adrian Tomine. Drawn & Quarterly, $22.95 (128p) ISBN 978-1-77046-209-0

Plenty of graphic novelists mine the seam of modern anxieties and alienation. Only a tiny handful do so with as much perceptive humanity as Tomine (Shortcomings). These half-dozen short stories are drawn with a cool, dry, Chris Ware%E2%80%93like style that heightens the emotions packed within their rigidly uniform blocks rather than muffling it. Many of the stories track relationships in which the women are lost and the men lash out. The men react in fury to their thwarted creativity (like the wannabe sculptor in "A Brief History of the Art Form Known as %E2%80%98Hortisculpture'%E2%80%89") and to any acknowledgment of their shortcomings (like the rage-filled middle-aged pot dealer in "Go Owls"). Some of those same damaged and defensive men also appear in "Amber Sweet," a Paul Austeresque fable of disorientation, in which a woman must come to terms with her resemblance to a popular porn star. But the title story is a simpler and more riveting construction. In it, an awkward, stuttering 14-year-old girl pursues an unlikely career as a stand-up comic, while her mother overpraises her and her father undermines her from the sidelines, though none of the three addresses the tragedy looming ever larger in their lives. Tomine has created a deft, deadpan masterpiece filled with heartache interspersed with the shock of beauty. (Oct.)