Given its Tiffany Blue cover and petite size, Adrian Tomine's Scenes from an Impending Marriage seems less like a book about someone getting married than an inexpensive gift for someone getting married.
This is a short—54 tiny, square-shaped pages—collection of comics about what it's like to be engaged to be married for a pair of liberal, PC, urban-dwelling yuppies. As such, we get vignettes and anecdotes about consumer guilt, respecting ethnic difference, getting in shape, passive aggression, and self-consciousness. All these themes and their accompanying minor epiphanies occur along the common route of how one gets ready for a wedding: selecting guests, finding a venue, designing invitations, hiring a D.J., registering for gifts, etc.
Most of the comics are two or three pages long and involve the bride and groom to be talking to each other, pondering nuptial necessities, and picking out marital must-haves. They're drawn in Tomine's black-and-white, clean-line style, a couple of scenes paying visual tribute to Peanuts and The Family Circus.
The title of the book is a play off Ingmar Bergman's five-hour teledrama Scenes from a Marriage, and the cover drawing of Mr. and Mrs. Tomine trotting off to, presumably, their conjugal coitus, looks a lot like Erland Josephson and Liv Ullmann. Bergman's film, however, was long and intense, portraits that let you really gaze at two people and peer into their relationship—ugly, embarrassing, and frustrating (and also hopeful, comforting, and passionate) as it could be.
Tomine's scenes, on the other hand, feel airbrushed, glossed over; they're close-up without being intimate, deprecating without being revealing. Surely to be engaged involves some doubts and disappointments, despite the mood of general hopefulness. And surely to be a conscientious fan of Ingmar Bergman involves at least some bleak pessimism creeping into your day to day life.
However, the tone of Tomine's Scenes from an Impending Marriage makes sense when you learn the origins of the book. They're revealed in an obligatorily self-referential scene toward the end, a vignette called "Favors." The future Mrs. Tomine suggests that Mr. Tomine make a little comic as a wedding favor—a comic about planning the very wedding for which it would be a take-home trinket.
Is it a literary sin to make a front-cover allusion to Bergman, but instead of a dense, high-fiber feast, you get served a sugary alt-comics cupcake written as a thank you gift for in-laws and cousins and well-wishers? Maybe. Regardless, Tomine's book is cute and quaint. It's as easy to swallow as the proverbial piece of cake, and takes about as much time to get through too. It was born as a party favor and it lives as a party favor. Purchase accordingly.
Scenes from an Impending Marriage was released on February 1 by Drawn and Quarterly. To purchase it, click here.