Adam Stephanides reviews X Diary

Posted by on January 8th, 2010 at 10:00 AM

Toma;Netcomics; 232 pp.; $17.99; Color; Softcover; ISBN: 9781600090530

X Diary is a feather-light collection of humorous four-panel strips — I would call them gag strips, but “gag” is too strong a word for the gentle humor here — about Mingo (female) and Jerry (male), a pair of 26-year-old ex-lovers who have decided to remain friends. They try to keep things casual, but their still-present romantic feelings for each other keep breaking in. Mingo, who is the viewpoint character for most of the strips, repeatedly tries to demonstrate that she’s over Jerry, but can’t make it convincing. There is little change in Mingo and Jerry’s relationship over the course of the book, although in the final strip Toma brings things to an abrupt conclusion.

[©2005 Toma, English translation ©2006 NETCOMICS]

Other strips in X Diary depict Mingo’s prickly relationship with her sister Sam, a punk rocker who has some unresolved baggage of her own concerning Jerry. There’s also a minor subplot involving Mingo’s co-worker Jinjin and his girlfriend. And that’s the entire cast, aside from a bit character or two.

X Diary is a manhwa (Korean comic), and in the introduction the author wonders if “American readers with a different sensibility” will accept it. In fact, of course, this sort of not-quite-friends-not-quite-lovers relationship is precisely the stuff of dozens of American indy comics and Webcomics. And apart from a couple of names, there’s nothing in the writing to tip off the reader that X Diary isn’t American. The art, too, resembles American indy comics far more than it does any manhwa I’ve seen. Like the writing, it’s low-key: it’s a bit reminiscent of Jeffrey Brown’s art, only simpler and better drawn.

X Diary is unpretentious, and there is a genuine warmth to both the writing and art. It could perhaps best be described as likable. What isn’t so likable is the price. True, it’s 230 pages long and in full color. But on average there are only two small panels per page, leaving plenty of white space; and at $18, it’s no bargain.

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