Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve zaps bad Asian American art

A portrait of the cartoon artist, times two
photo: Wendy Jung; illustration: Adrian Tomine
A portrait of the cartoon artist, times two

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In the latest Optic Nerve, the excellent comic-book artist Adrian Tomine has his fortune cookie and eats it too. A young Chinese American woman narrates: "For most of my life I had felt distant from my grandfather, perhaps mistaking the language barrier for coldness." The draftsmanship is typically sharp, but is Tomine really telling a story about someone who operates a fortune-cookie factory? "I realized that he was very much like the thing he'd spent his whole life making: a hard, protective shell containing haiku-like wisdom." Groan. Just when you think Tomine's let his storytelling chops get rusty (it's been two years since the last issue), you turn the page—and realize the scene is from a movie at the "Asian American Digi-Fest." Anyone who's suffered through too much sincere, horrible Asian American art will grin with recognition—but watch how Tomine superbly illuminates the lusts and foibles of his ultra- critical Japanese American stand-in, and for good measure throws in three panels that will be completely impenetrable to non-Korean speakers. Tomine answers questions and signs Optic Nerve #9, as well as Summer Blonde, a collection of issues 5 through 8, ending with a silent, 12-panel sequence that will break your heart.

 
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