No One Told You Life Was Gonna Be This Way: When it was first announced, Getting It Together was always aligned with one (mostly) beloved pop culture phenomenon: Friends. And, yes, to an extent, the new Image Comics series, co-written by Sina Grace and Omar Spahi, and with art by Jenny D. Fine, is very much like that ’90s sitcom classic. A group of friends (including Sam, Jack, and Lauren, the latter two being siblings a la Monica and Ross, try to navigate life and love in modern-day San Francisco, which is basically what NYC was circa 1995). But since the pandemic, the series has also taken on new life:
“I was scared that readers wouldn’t be interested in a story a group of friends who are waaay too in each other’s business- physically, figuratively, etc.,” Grace said during a recent interview. “What’s funny is I think the opposite is true. People want to remember what was great about coming together, about the chaos of being able to connect. Instead of categorizing this as a ‘romance,’ I’d say that the category is: LIFE. This book is for people who miss having a life.”
And, oh, what a life it is.
When The Rain Starts To Pour: What I think Grace (and by extension the rest of the creative team) were getting at is actually at the heart of series like this, regardless of the medium or presence of a global super-virus. Which is to say, it’s giving people the closest approximation of what it is to be young and bright out in the big scary world, trying to sort out who you are and what you love while making something of a space for yourself. But more than that, this is done as a comic, which both streamlines and enhance the work of what I’d call existential fantasy porn. Whatever you think that means, it’s really about distilling things down to their most dramatic and potent to really draw out the humanity and sheer connective potential. So what you’re left with is:
1) Hot young protagonists stumbling through life with ample style and charisma.
2) A sense of overt interconnectedness, to the point you can feel how expertly the narrative is assembled.
3) Simple displays of humanity that achieve the most ROI for the readers’ interest and emotional wellbeing.
4) A story all about the human connection, even if that’s a detriment to anything else.
Even At My Worst, I’m Best With You: But, please, don’t get me wrong: none of that is a bad thing. As Grace mentioned, we’re desperate for relationships and connection right now, and by leaning into some tropes of classic movies and sitcoms and even literature (see something like The Ensemble by Aja Gabel), the series delivers these shreds of humanity in a big way. The fact that it’s a comic only means the delivery system is more immediate and without a lot of needless parts or extra weight. The pages explode with humanity, and it’s hard not to fall in love with these situations and people, even if they’re constructed in a way that you see how unrealistic it might sometimes feel. It’s realistic because we care about what’s going on and to whom, and not because they’d necessarily happen like this or in such gorgeous color and with perfect narrative simplicity.
Your Love Life’s DOA: Still, that doesn’t mean the series is just relying solely on tropes to feed our hunger for shimmery humanity. In a lot of ways, it does stuff to stand out on its own. Like, the inclusion of LGBTQ, which feel far more earnest and un-plotted than some other heavy-handed attempts. (The series is more like the enthusiastic Brooklyn Nine-Nine than Friends, which mostly fumbled its displays of gay characters, especially in early seasons.) And diversity and inclusion are essential, but if they don’t feel organic than it’s almost like we make real people and issues into hackneyed material for another bad sitcom.
As an extension of that, it’s hard to discern a “main” character, which is sort of the point of any true ensemble piece. At the same time, it’s not just about giving all characters ample space, but about creating narratives and structures that play off one another in the realest sense possible. This series is just as much about people as the things and ideas and emotions that exist between them, and what they says about them but also us as readers. Having so many focal points feels rewarding but it also feels like another way to strip down some of that sitcom DNA and tell a story that feels more genuine and robust.
Like I’ve Been There Before: There’s no denying the writing talents of Grace and Spahi; they have a certain camaraderie and commonality that makes for seamless storylines (and the dialogue feels all the more “real” for having to folks on writing duties). That said, you have to give heaps of credit to the art team. Fine’s pencils, especially, are the living personification of the realism and organic nature that this series works to achieve. Fine knows just how hype up these people and conversation-heavy scenes, showing us all of these gorgeous protagonists (and perhaps antagonists?) with glorious detail while creating a sense of distance through the obfuscation of details and a prevailing sense of grit. Grace and Spahi may “create” this world, but it’s Fine who presents this world just as it needs to be, and in a lot of ways, that influences and molds the actual writing. And a special shoutout to colorist Mx. Struble, who provides a splash of life while maintaining the book’s larger emotional aesthetic, as well as to letterer Sean Konot, whose work made me think of ’80s sitcom and thus made the series all that much better.
I’ll Be There For You: When I was finishing up the first issue, I thought if, instead of Friends, there might be a better comparison: Seinfeld. They’re both kind of about nothing, and the appeal is the human emotion that comes from crashing certain characters into certain foils and scenarios. But even that doesn’t feel accurate enough; Getting It Together has more heart, more endearing undertones, and that boundless “romanticism” is what makes it truly special. No, this book is something different entirely, and I can’t wait to see how these people and places and emotional constructs grow and develop over subsequent issues. Wherever this lands, it’s going to be a slice of life we may all need to cling to for the time being. You know, sort of like a real friend.