Friday, June 29, 2007

In Review: Adrian Tomine's Smoke

In digging through some old material, I ran across two issues of Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve, when it was just a mini comic, and was reminded of the best piece of work that I think that he ever did: Smoke.

Adrian came out of a reasonably fertile Sacramento Comic scene that existed in the late 1980's and early 1990s. Perhaps a slightly odd town to have a big comic group, but none the less there were a number of us: Ron Lim, Kelley Jones, Keith Aiken, Jim Sinclair, Sam Keith and some others that will doubtlessly get mad at me for omitting them. Knowing other professionals and seeing them make it was a huge boost for the others at the time.

I met Adrian once or twice along the way, but never knew him. As much as he's been published in the intervening time, I like this story the best.

There was a roughness to pencils that was Adrian discovering his pencil and ink style along the way. Very soon after this, with a Xeric Grant in his pocket, the last mini issue of Optic Nerve would get much slicker, as would his art style.
There is an edge to this and it certainly fits the mold of a perfect short movie: there isn't a shot or panel wasted is this little gem of a story, and while it doesnt' seem to hurry through it's 6 pages, neither does it waste any time. It is, in short, a perfect little mix of words and pictures, free of what becomes my main critique of Adrian's later work - that it revels in its "indie"-ness so deeply that it becomes ponderous. At a certain point, you want to shake up the lost 20-something and yell, "You're overanalyzing to the point of paralysis!" but you might spill their latte.

This story is, I believe, in the Optic Nerve Mini collection, and certainly worth a read through. Like being turned on to a great little 45 single from 15 years ago, savor having this little something to read.

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