Adrian Tomine, creator of the critically acclaimed comic series Optic Nerve, has been called the comics voice of the twentysomething generation, but it's a title he rejects, and for good reason. The tales of disconnection and alienation collected in Summer Blonde--a selection of the best of Optic Nerve--aren't expressions of youthful angst so much as they are meditations on the discontent we all feel with contemporary life.
The four stories here have echoes of Raymond Carver in their minimalist style and focus on dysfunctional relationships, but Tomine's real strength lies in his identification of the "undercover craziness" in us all--the damaged selves that we hide beneath facades of normalcy. In "Hawaiian Getaway," for instance, a woman's inability to navigate office politics or family expectations leads to a breakdown, and she begins calling the pay phone outside her apartment and talking to the strangers who answer. Other stories are sharp indictments of the madness of modern society. In "Bomb Scare" the brutality and disregard high school students direct at each other reflect the casual violence of the first Gulf War playing out on their televisions. In the title story, a stalker's interference in the life of a woman exposes the empty voids that lie under our social rituals and leads to an eruption of violence.
Some readers may wonder how to interpret the ambiguous endings of the stories in Summer Blonde, but this ambiguity is the whole point of Tomine's work. The world he creates is just as confusing and uncertain as our own lives. While his characters are often unlikable, simultaneously creepy and pathetic, they remain understandable because Tomine always ensures that we see ourselves in them. --Peter Darbyshire [via]