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Review: Tune: Vanishing Point

A comic review article by: Andrew Tan

I'm pretty sure I graduated in the worst possible year of the 2000s. It was 2008 and I had earned a degree in journalism, a field where professors warned us the chances of working in the field would be slim. A friend -- although in hindsight he clearly wasn't one -- derisively said I was majoring in managing Chipotles.

Since that year, there's been a myriad of art that has tried to articulate the frustration and the depression that is coupled with being a fresh college graduate and living in an economy that doesn't know what to do with you. The successes in portraying it, for me, have always been accidental. Moneyball, on the surface, is a movie about Brad Pitt managing a baseball team. But watch it enough times and it begins to bubble up that Moneyball is actually about a man who was once promised unimaginable success, but due to circumstances beyond his control, falls short.

 

 

I suspect Derek Kirk Kim's Tune: Vanishing Point is in that same vein. I don't think Kim intended it to be an expression of millennial disappointment, but the more I think about the book, the clearer that becomes. 

Originally published on his web site, Tune: Vanishing Point collects the first ten chapters into a printed book. The format is unique in that every page is black with stars while the panels, in different quantities on each page, drift in the background.

It's worth noting that the book's contents are still available  online along with the yet-to-be released second book. Personally, I prefer physical books over online content and with a book like this, it really helps to not read it on a computer screen. The aforementioned stars feel more immersive and vast when it's the only thing that wraps the panels in front of you.

 

 

Vanishing Point's protagonist is Andy Go, an art college dropout living in the bay area with his parents. The story opens with Andy being observed by alien figures, which are later revealed to be aliens from an alternate dimension. Naturally, Vanishing Point's arc is to get us to caught up to how this happened.

Kim's style is very distinct in this book; think of Scott Pilgrim but more rounded. Ultimately this simple art style serves the story well since it never takes itself too seriously, usually finding places to put in visual gags.

 

 

And like many protagonists I end up caring about/projecting on, Andy is victim to a crush on his friend Yumi. Yumi is actually pretty reminiscent of Nancy Kim in one of Kim's previous books, Same Difference. She's not victim to the manic-pixie-dream-girl archetype, mainly because she's neither manic nor pixie beyond her short hair.

Through Andy's almost epistolary-like text and the pressures of his parents, he is motivated to make the extreme decision that brings us back to the first panel of the story. Much like the panels drifting literally in space, Andy's life is in stasis. He knows the point he wants to be at, but the venues to get there are closed off to him.

One of the longer and more resonant sequences in the book is Andy trying to find a paying job. He starts, with high hopes, at Sockem Comics only to discover a painful truth many 20-somethings have had to face. You can do the work you're passionate about, but you'll have to do it for free. 

 

 

This is what makes Vanishing Point particularly unique. While jokes and gags are on nearly each page of the book, it still manages to articulate that feeling that comes with falling short of the dreams you had. Kim finds space to make jokes at the struggles of not being where you thought you would be.

It's tempting to want a story where characters lay on their beds all day, looking on in ennui as the sun is setting as some grander metaphor for their youth. But instead Vanishing Point presents it with something that's fantastic in a very literal way and that's what makes it stand out as a book for the youth affected by the global recession.

 


 

Andrew Tan spends his days working on a bunch of different stuff he can't really explain here. Before that, he majored in Journalism at the University of Florida, where he worked for a few newspapers. He loves comics (obviously), sad music, duck confit and San Francisco. He also has a sentence published in McSweeney's that he is proud of. He was also mocked in Gawker for said sentence, which brings him roughly the same level of pride.

Andrew is one of the many people on the internet vying for the moniker of Tandrew. Some are him, some are not. You can find him on Twitter at @TandrewTan.

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