Scenes From an Impending Marriage
By Adrian Tomine
Drawn & Quarterly
The news of Adrian Tomine’s new book no doubt sent a wave of excitement out amongst the cartoonist’s loyal fan base—not only due to the fact that his comics output has seemingly slowed over the past several years, it also promised to offer a certain level of insight into the psyche of the man himself. Tomine, after all, has largely stayed away from overt autobiography in his Optic Nerve series, and while readers have, no doubt, attempted to read flashes of his own person into the rotating cast of characters, such connections are largely the fabrications of amateur psychoanalysts.
Scenes from an Impending Marriage promised both glimpses of the man behind the work and a belated invitation to one of the biggest moments in his life, as a mass produced reprinting of a wedding favor created by Tomine at the best of his soon-to-be-wife. The news of the extremely limited run mini-comic hit the Internet around the time of the artist’s 2007 wedding, and no doubt drove many a fan a bit crazy with the knowledge that there was non-Optic Nerve work out there that they would likely never actually see.
But while the book’s title is a tongue-in-cheek homage to Ingmar Bergman’s much-beloved, but utterly devastating 1973 film, Scenes from a Marriage, the book doesn’t offer much in the way of stripped naked critiques on the state of matrimony in contemporary society—a fact that likely won’t come as a revelation to those aware of the book’s origin. After all, stripped naked critiques on the state of matrimony in contemporary society make for lousy wedding favors.
Rather, the book is a suitably breezy and light-hearted collection of strips taken from real life vignettes in the months leading up to marriage. The art is some of the simplest we’ve seen from the notoriously meticulous Tomine—small ink drawings that look as though there were pulled directly from a sketchbook, often borrowing from Schulz’s drawing book both for comedic effect and to offer up a quick distillation of a scene in cramped panel real estate.
Insights are offered into Tomine and his relationship with his fiancée, Sarah, but for the most part, they exist to serve punch lines to cute stories about eccentric wedding DJs and tie shopping. In the end, those bits and pieces do come together to form a picture of its leads—Sarah attempting to pull together her dream wedding and Adrian doing what he can to make his future wife happy in that respect, while tripping things up a bit with minor resistance and little obsessions along the way.
An epilogue, created specifically for this collection, offers a warm reminder of precisely what this whole story is about: two people really in love, willing to look past—or perhaps even embrace—their respective shortcomings. The warmest and strongest moment in the book emerge once the pomp and circumstance of the special day has come to a close, a reminder that, once the DJ has stopped and the bar has closed, we’re left with two people who have pledged themselves to one another
To that end, Scenes from an Impending Marriage will likely have a life beyond those Adrian Tomine fans happy to see their artist stretch his legs outside his often somber subject matter for a funny and breezy take on a serious subject—this $10 hardcover pocket book will likely be gifted to many young newly-engaged couples in the coming years. It’s a small book that is ostensibly a lighthearted take on the trials and tribulations of planning a wedding—but in between the lines, it’s a reminder about why we put ourselves through such difficulty in the first place.