Book Review: Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine

Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 1, 2015
Source: Purchased

Killing and Dying is a stunning showcase of the possibilities of the graphic novel medium and a wry exploration of loss, creative ambition, identity, and family dynamics. With this work, Adrian Tomine (Shortcomings, Scenes from an Impending Marriage) reaffirms his place not only as one of the most significant creators of contemporary comics but as one of the great voices of modern American literature. His gift for capturing emotion and intellect resonates here: the weight of love and its absence, the pride and disappointment of family, the anxiety and hopefulness of being alive in the twenty-first century.

“Amber Sweet” shows the disastrous impact of mistaken identity in a hyper-connected world; “A Brief History of the Art Form Known as Hortisculpture” details the invention and destruction of a vital new art form in short comic strips; “Translated, from the Japanese” is a lush, full-color display of storytelling through still images; the title story, “Killing and Dying”, centers on parenthood, mortality, and stand-up comedy. In six interconnected, darkly funny stories, Tomine forms a quietly moving portrait of contemporary life.

Tomine is a master of the small gesture, equally deft at signaling emotion via a subtle change of expression or writ large across landscapes illustrated in full color. Killing and Dying is a fraught, realist masterpiece. 

I found this book for $2.00 at my library’s annual used book sale. Being someone who generally enjoys graphic novels, I thought I didn’t really have a lot to lose by buying it. It took me a little bit of time to get around to reading it, but I finally read it over a couple lunches at work.

When I first started this one, I really enjoyed it. I liked “A Brief History of the Art Form Known as Hortisculpture,” mostly because I liked the twist at the end. It really did not end in a way that I expected, and I appreciated that. I also really enjoyed “Amber Sweet” and the more or less unexpected ending that one had as well.

The other four stories, though? I was not a huge fan. I don’t know if I’d really call them “darkly funny” like the synopsis promises. I didn’t find them particularly emotional, and, in fact, really felt very little of anything as I was reading them.

In the end, I’m not mad that I bought this, but it’ll be going to a Little Free Library or back to the used bookstore with me one of these days.


Have you read Killing and Dying? Have you enjoyed any great graphic novels recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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