When it comes to comics, I like them real. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good genre comic. Sci-fi, action, mystery – I love them all. But, when given a choice of reading something for pleasure, I love to sit down with something realistic. It doesn’t have to be real (like Emi Town or Between Gears), it just needs to be believable. Pete and Miriam by Rich Tomaso is just the kind of realistic comic that I love so much.
The trials and tribulations of Pete and Miriam, best friends struggling to deal with growing up in 1980s New Jersey, come together in this riveting new volume from Eisner Award-winning cartoonist Rich Tommaso. From the trouble caused by youthful impulses to exploring the seedier side of what life has to offer outside their suburban confines, Pete and Miriam forge their friendship through the odyssey of coming of age in America.
The book opens with Pete and Miriam, best friends since grade school, attending college. While it is difficult to tell if they still attend the same school (Pete is in film school and Miriam appears to be an art major) it is clear that they are still best friends. They talk on the phone all the time and are always there to help each other out (as best they can). But what makes their relationship more believable than your typical “best friends” relationship is the unresolved sexual tension that exists between them. Miriam mentions several times over the course of the book that she has, from time to time, had feelings for Pete. Pete, however, is blissfully unaware of these feelings and seems to treat Miriam as “one of the guys”. This dynamic adds another layer to their relationship, one that many long-term friends can identify with.
The story of Pete and Miriam bounces around a bit, covering time in college, high school, and grade school. The stories that take place in the past are connected thematically by Miriam being a friend to Pete, regardless of how big of an ass he is. She is always there by his side, caring for him and about him. The only time she is not there he completely falls apart. The stories are often bitter sweet. Things never have a way of working out as planned. But, then again, that is what makes Pete and Miriam so realistic.
Tomasso’s art looks like the love child of Dan Clowes and Chris Ware. His inks are dark and bold like Clowes, while his figures, especially the young Pete and Miriam) have a rounded quality about them that is found in Ware’s books such as Jimmy Corrigan. It comforting, but never really pleasant. There is a sense of bitterness and disappointment that treads just under the surface of the book, keeping the reader just a bit ill at ease. It echoes the way that the characters are clinging to each other in a world that is constantly shifting, unpredictable, and never quite as wonderful as they had hoped.
Rich Tomasso is a name new to me. However, after reading Pete and Miriam I am on the lookout for more pieces from him. (Editor’s Note: there are a host of comics available for reading and enjoyment on Tomasso’s site!) The book is branded as volume one, so I am hopeful that there is a second volume on the way in the future. Do yourself a favor and pick up Pete and Miriam today.