Monday, June 30, 2014
Review: Shortcomings (Optic Nerve #9-11) by Adrian Tomine
Stats: Adult Graphic Novel, Hardcover, 108 pages, Edition Published by Drawn and Quarterly, October 2007.
My Rating: 1 STAR
I've spent a lot of time thinking about Shortcomings the graphic novel and trying to form a readable review. Turns out, I really didn't enjoy this. I actually wrote a review where I did a reasonably good job at explaining my dislike for what's done in Shortcomings in contrast with what the book was trying to achieve, but then it was accidentally deleted, so here I am back at square one with no interest in explaining myself again.
BUT I'm going to try!
Shortcomings is a character piece where you're not suppose to like any of the characters. You see, they're "painfully real" and that means they go around and act like dicks for the entirety of the story with no redemption or explanation as to their thinking aside from the fact that they're "flawed". There's also a lot of "brutal honesty and lacerating, irreverent humor" which means to say these unlikeable characters are unlikeable because they aren't afraid to push buttons and say things that are disrespectful in a flippant manner. Like that time where the lesbian character is cussing out a girl, who identifies herself as bi, by calling her a "face sitter" and a "dabbler". Wow, how edgy! Totally not afraid to say what they want to say. That's what makes them so real, you know. The fact that there so flawed. Just look at how flawed they are! The main character even calls this one guy he doesn't like "faggoty" in a fit of rage. I mean, wow, it just got REAL! Real and FLAWED! Aren't FLAWS just so REAL?
In the last year I've grown to have a new appreciation for the anti-hero. When characters do have flaws and behave in a way that isn't always likable, it isn't about having a positive or a negative reaction, it's about how their behavior plays into an interesting and engaging plot. Shortcomings isn't interesting. The entire story is formed around the characters insulting each other and whining. This results in a lot of drama, but not a lot of examination of the issues and ideas it's trying to bring to the forefront of the story about racial identity, sexual attraction, and frankly, anger management issues. Anything it was trying to say was overwhelmed by the blatant negativity and boring relationship drama that was the equivalent of something you could see in an edgy episode of Gossip Girl.
Shortcomings was trying to be off-putting and it succeeded, but I don't think I could say it succeeded in communicating any of the other points it was so desperately trying to get across. The only plus side was the art, which was amazing. I would love to see it applied to a less frustrating story.