Thursday, 30 July 2015

Tune, Book 1: Vanishing Point by Derek Kirk Kim Review

Andy Go drops out of art school believing his obvious talent will instantly land him lucrative illustration jobs at The New Yorker and similar high profile magazines. Except nothing happens after he drops out - who’da thunk it? Sat on his couch for weeks, Andy’s parents eventually push him out into the big wide world to get a job. But the job hunting doesn’t go well – until a peculiar opportunity at a zoo appears…

Derek Kirk Kim’s Tune, Volume 1 is a slice-of-life comic that, like most slice-of-life comics, is a sloooooooooooooow read. Nothing much happens in the first third besides Andy talking with his art school buds and then schlumping around in his family’s home. Most of the book is taken up with Andy’s secret crush on girl friend Yumi, wishing she was his girlfriend. And then the book kinda goes off the rails in the final act.

BUT. You know why slice-of-life comics are slow reads? Because they’re usually about the author circling some truth about their lives which makes reading them more rewarding than seeing Marvel/DC muscleheads in tights fisting one another (maybe could’ve phrased that better).

And it feels like there is some truth to Tune. Being in your late teens/early twenties is a confusing time. The optimism of youth clashes with the reality of life, and you start to realise things don’t get handed to you: you gotta work at it to get anywhere, whatever your profession. Arrogance alone ain’t gonna cut it, which seems obvious but isn’t for more than a few at that age.

The awkward, soppy love angle too could’ve killed the whole book for me but it’s kinda sweet. Bashful Andy tip-toeing around similarly shy Yumi – daww! But that’s how romance is for a number of people. It takes a while but you do warm to Andy and actually want to see him tell Yumi he’s in love with her, and then take on the world, renewed, determined to become the artist he knows he is.

Except the story instead veers off in a very odd direction. Up ‘til then I was wondering why all the backgrounds behind the panels were outer space with the panels free-floating around - and then I saw why. I’m not saying I hated it but it felt a little too self-consciously “kooky” and a bit of a cop-out from the otherwise decent story Kim had built up to at that point.

But I can see why people would be bored with Andy’s life. It’s realistic but real life is boring and there were plenty of scenes where my mind wandered. It didn’t bother me that much because I could empathise with Andy’s plight as his search for a job/love/creative fulfilment as a young man reminded me a lot of my experiences around that age. And Kim’s art is beautiful too.

Tune Volume 1 isn’t Derek Kirk Kim’s best effort. His collaboration with Gene Luen Yang (the current Superman writer!) on American Born Chinese was superb and I loved his Eternal Smile book too. But I liked Tune in parts. It’s a fine portrait of a young man as a clueless wannabe comics artist finding his way in life and love; it just suffers from uneven pacing.

Go in expecting a slow read, especially that beginning, and you might get more out of Tune and even enjoy it yourself. Bryan Lee O’Malley still did it better with Scott Pilgrim though!

Tune, Book 1: Vanishing Point

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