Killing and Dying

by Adrian Tomine

Hardcover, 2015




Drawn and Quarterly, (2015)


A showcase of the possibilities of the graphic novel medium and a wry exploration of loss, creative ambition, identity, and family dynamics.

Media reviews

Death creeps in around the edges of Mr. Tomine’s new book, casting a sometimes barely perceptible shadow.
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It’s a story that gets down so deeply to the heart of where stories come from that there’s no way to get back out without tearing something inside. It will also make you want to hug your child or your spouse.
The characters are hardly caricatures; their lives are messy, scattered with minefields, yet they’re trying not to give up hope. And their fates are left to our imagination. What will become of them? Who knows? But we want to know.
Like Bechdel, Tomine has a great sense of balance between the visual and the verbal; his default style is one of clarity and precision (the influential ligne claire of Hergé), but he's willing to alter his drawings in interesting and thoughtful ways to suit his aims, crowding his pages tighter in
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a story about a claustrophobic relationship ("Go Owls") and emptying them out for an ephemeral, light-footed immigration one ("Translated, from the Japanese").
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User reviews

LibraryThing member lobotomy42
For me, the most striking thing about this collection is how much Adrian Tomine has progressed as an artist and writer in the last decade. I had first read Adrian Tomine's Summer Blonde back in 2006, shortly after it appeared. I remember thinking it was self-indulgent, irritating and somewhat
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derivative of Dan Clowes both thematically and stylistically. The sketches were exaggerated and flat, the stories self-indulgent and centered around the sex lives of nerdy dude writers. There was nothing wrong with it, per se, but it seemed fairly similar to a lot of other things that were happening in the indie comic scene at the time.

Fast forward ten years to Killing and Dying, Tomine's latest collection. The reader is immediately struck by the extreme precision that Tomine has adopted as his signature style. The plotting are characters are meticulously rendered, withholding all but the most minimal amount of context possible to tell the entire story. Blocks of solid color and straight lines predominate the book, panels are made rigidly even on a grid, letting the content do the talking. Important details are visible, unimportant ones are excised.

Each story in the collection explores a kind of duality in storytelling. One early story, “Hortisculpture” adheres strictly to the format of daily newspaper comics to tell a depressing story in the traditional series of six 3-panel vignettes followed by 1 larger “Sunday” strip. The vignettes all end on a “humourous” punchline, just like a newspaper daily, but the larger story they tell is one of futility and failure. In the title story “Killing and Dying” Tomine tells one story with careful images while another plays out in the dialogue. And yet other stories revolve around the duality of the characters themselves — “Amber Sweet” centers on a woman who discovers that she looks identical to a popular internet porn star, and “Translated from the Japanese” features a woman considering the alternate life her child might have if a decision had gone another way.

And I’m happy to report that not one of the stories is about the sex life of a young nerd writer.
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LibraryThing member chrisblocker
A few weeks ago, I started a new campaign: to give Graphic Novels a fair shot. I've never read anything that could be considered a graphic novel, but for the next several months, I intend to read many, pushing forward until I just can't take it any more. I figured it would take a while for me to
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find something I loved, something that made me a believer in the genre. Then I discovered Adrian Tomine.

My second “graphic novel,” Adrian Tomine's Killing and Dying, isn't truly a graphic novel as it is a collection of stories. Is Graphic Short Story Collection a term? Doesn't matter. This collection is fabulous and exactly what I was looking for: a story (or in this case a collection of stories) that stands on its own but uses the medium of visual art to elevate it or simply to give it a different perspective. For the large part, these stories are engaging, poignant, and insightful. These are stories that take place in the midst of everyday living, offering glimpses of those significant moments when internal conflict changes a person. A couple of the stories left me wondering long after, questioning whether the “obvious” conclusion was only one layer of what I was to take away. This stories stuck with me, the added images leaving me with faces and scenes that imprinted themselves on my memory as being of equal importance.

Tomine's art is fantastic. Each story is presented in a different style, a different set of colors, and a different perspective. I'd never before considered that graphic novelists could have such a range of storytelling options. As a fellow writer, I can't help but marvel at a motif that is as carefully selected for each piece as point-of-view, narrative style, and characterization are mulled over by more traditional writers.

So, now I'm a believer. The next question is, how many Tomines are out there? Did I happen to so easily stumble upon one in a million, or will I discover many others who are equally impressive? The search continues.

Superhero Count: Zero.
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LibraryThing member questbird
Five stories of awkward living in America. The title story was about a father and daughter failing to understand each other's worlds. Another story was about alimony-dodgers.
LibraryThing member Codonnelly
Killing and Dying: Stories by Adrian Tomine is a short story collection in graphic novel format. Each chapter delivers a brief glance into a character’s life with an emphasis on his or her fears, crushed dreams, and sorrows. All of the stories are separate from each other, so there are no obvious
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connections beyond theme and tone. The graphic novel compilation is a depressing, albeit realistic read, and each story leaves behind a feeling of futility and hopelessness.

Like many short story compilations, a few chapters keep you engaged, and a few not so much. Tomine’s very subtle story-telling, which is more often than not somewhat effective, could also be frustrating in the shorter stories. The shortest stories were precisely as you’d expect: too short. They left little to no room for dynamic character change, which means they do not make much of an impact.

Tomine brilliantly displays his artistic talent throughout the compilation. The illustrations, both classic and beautiful, impress immensely. Much like the stories, realism also plays an important role in his presentation. At times, the artwork is more immersive than the plot, which can be problematic, but at least the images capture the reader’s interest until the bitter end.

Each main character possesses a flaw that he or she either cannot or will not change. Additionally, most of the characters have also been haunted by something in their past, which they are still dealing with in their daily life. True to the novel’s title, some of them kill their flaw, some die by it, and some push through it. Each story is a reminder of something we all share: the constant battles we must fight to lead a happy and successful life.

On a surface level, there is nothing wrong with Adrian Tomine’s Killing and Dying: Stories. He is clearly a very talented illustrator and writer. Unfortunately, I found that the brevity of the stories hindered my ability to fully connect with the characters. Tomine seems to want to leave meaning up to the reader’s interpretation, but he does not provide enough background information for the reader to actively invest in the process of discovering that meaning. Regardless, the images are stunning and the stories mimic life quite accurately, so if you’re intrigued by the format and premise, I would still give it a try.
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LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
The six graphic short stories in Adrian Tomine’s collection are filled with exuberance and disappointment, masks chosen or imposed, and deceptions of others and of oneself. The graphic style is somewhat different in each story, ranging from the Chris Ware-like architectural style of
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“Translated, from the Japanese,” to the Daniel Clowes-like flatness of “Killing and Dying.” But perhaps those comparisons are unfair since Tomine makes his form entirely his own in each story.

Although “Killing and Dying” is probably the best, most well-rounded, of these stories, with numerous doublings and echoes between the three principal characters, the story I enjoyed most was the examination of artistic inspiration, regret, and transmutation found in “A Brief History of the Art Form Known as ‘Hortisculpture’.” There a wannabe artist working in menial garden maintenance has a burst of inspiration resulting in what he believes to be an entirely new art form. His wife indulges his creativity but it soon becomes clear that what he longs for is not art but rather acceptance even acclaim and, finally, the love of his daughter. Years of frustration ensue. But redemption and transformation take hold when he abandons his artistic pretensions and enlists his daughter’s aid in a joyful destruction of his hortisculpture garden.

Tomine’s characters will tug at your heartstrings even as they embarrass you with their choices and their blunders. You’ll feel their distress and find it enough to revel in small triumphs.

Definitely recommended.
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LibraryThing member villemezbrown
Disappointing. I've enjoyed Tomine's previous work, but found little to care about here. The Hortisculpture story just made me wish I was reading some classic Frank King Gasoline Alley comic strips instead of this odd homage (which at least is miles better than the current Gasoline Alley strips
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anyway). The porn star doppelganger story felt incomplete. The domestic violence story felt unoriginal to the point of having an ending "ripped from the headlines." The airplane thing amounted to a sketch of a story. The comedian story was good but unrelentingly painful and depressing. The final story was pointless.
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LibraryThing member obtusata
Tomine has a knack for telling the stories of ordinary and often unlikable people (the kind of people many would describe as "losers"). This book is a mixed bag of people trying their best and people screwing up.
LibraryThing member b.masonjudy
Tomine displays an impressive range across the six stories in this collection in art and storytelling. He manages to work in laughs and tenderness into what initially comes across as banal and challenges the reader in the spaces between panels. His use of time is particularly effective in
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generating more emotional content without a sprawling tale.
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LibraryThing member Cail_Judy
Excellent collection of stories by Adrian Tomine. Touching, insightful and moving. I always enjoy Tomine's work. Favorite story was "Hortisculpture" for sure - the four panel structure was effective.
LibraryThing member Smokler
Tomine's best since Optic Nerve.
LibraryThing member francoisvigneault
A collection of stories that is my fave Tomine in years. His art and writing both seem to have gotten looser and more playful, a welcome respite from what had become a perhaps-too-perfectionist and stiff style. These stories are emotional and elegant but also often fun and laugh-out-loud funny.
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Really great stuff.
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