Previously on Getting It Together: Amid a particularly weird time in recorded history, Image Comics offered up something of a salve in Getting It Together. Written by Sina Grace and Omar Spahi, with art by Jenny D. Fine, I called the book a “smarter, more daring Friends for the COVID era.” Which basically means it’s a modernized take on the “young friends in the city trope,” pumped up with as much hip new references as endless emotion and heart. In just one issue, the creative team had already crafted a promising series whose greatest value was a way to let people find personal connections in a time where that whole prospect feels wildly impossible. And with issue #2, the creative team continues their expert world-building, expanding this totally cool, hugely relatable universe in some fresh and daring ways.
YoungSexyCool: With issue #1, we met Sam and Jack, two best friends living in San Francisco, as the former struggles amid his breakup with Lauren (who, in accordance with hallowed sitcom laws, is Jack’s sister). That first issue works because we get to see what I said was the real heart of this series: the day-to-day emotional interactions and back-and-forth of its main characters. In this sex-positive, LGTBQ-centric world of modern San Fran, it’s the conversations and interactions, no matter how pedestrian, that are more interesting than any tourist attraction.
That first issue felt like a sitcom not because of any tropes (they’re still there, but not as awkward or irksome), but because of just how good it was to consume these peoples’ lives. There is a distinct warmth and comfort to watching them live through some version of our own existence (albeit slightly more attractive and cool). We’re seeing into the inner most lives of these dynamic young folks, and it reminded us of why we love these stories in the first place: they’re like ours, but heightened enough to create that much-needed emotional distance.
Opening Up: With issue #2, the world of Sam and Jack and company expands a little more. We pull out from the core of their emotional comings and goings to see how this “fallout” has impacted the world at large. I don’t want to spoil too much, but the issues between Sam, Jack, and Lauren start to impact Jack’s dating life, Lauren’s band, Nipslip, and basically all the connections and larger dynamics at play in this rag-tag group of friends, lovers, and associates. It’s so hugely rewarding to see all of this energy and tension exist in a larger context.
For one, it’s not just having more parts to the equation, and thus a more satisfying experience for readers (although that is the case and this is all scrum-diddly-umptious). It’s also that the more we expand beyond the “core” trio, the more nuanced and complicated these issues of anger, jealousy, mistrust, etc. become — and that’s where this goes from a great coping mechanism to this massive, living story about how we connect with people and what goes into these (sometimes tenuous) relationships. It’s sweet, tasty drama but done in a way not to satisfy some baser desire for the sake of mere schadenfreude but to tell a dynamic story about the way these bonds develop and mutate over time. In that sense, the series feels more alive than any of its “source” materials, and we connect with these folks as they struggle to make sense of themselves and how they live in the eyes of others.
Welcome to San Fran: I mentioned getting to see way more of San Fran as Grace and Spahi have interpreted the city. That means we get to spend a lot of time moving about: seeing Lauren’s band, Nipslip, as they struggle with signing with a label (or not); and Jack during his date with a new fella and how these relationships are so innately connected to this dynamic cityscape they all happen to occupy. So as the drama and emotions are building, so too is the world at large, and that only makes for a more compelling and engaging story overall. It’s not just hip people living their lives but doing so in this lush realm of art and culture, and that kind of “realism” works to only expand the story and deliver us into this dynamic, fully-formed narrative space. There’s a clear effort to create a world where people and culture are connected in ways to share keen ideas and insights. Even more than that, Grace and Spahi are excellent at building a universe that feels genuinely cool. (With band names like Nom-Noms, they’ve got a real future in the A&R biz.)
I think of something like Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist: it dropped endless references and fake band names in an attempt to be cool, but it just felt a little forced. Here, these same tricks feel super effective, and while they’re only small details in the larger story, they do wonders in crafting a world we can relate to that’s then filled with stories and people we are better able to engage. Things felt like they were spiraling upward in such a massive way, and rather than stifling a deeply personal and intimate narrative core, it invited readers into truly enjoy this world. It’s about fostering an experience that’s both familiar and alien in its elegance, and the two writers grasp that completely.
A Gorgeous View: Part of the success of this process, in building a world that’s deeply and movingly real, is the continued excellence of Fine’s artwork. She’s able to craft this San Fran in such a way that it feels like every version we’ve seen in movies and TV but also something that could be an actual city with all its weirdness and grit. That balancing act is important to our connection to this place and this city, as it helps inform our understanding and guide us through the world with proper expectations. But Fine’s effectiveness isn’t in showing properly coded buildings; it’s expanding the emotional core that permeates issue #2.
It’s in the totally delightful visual cues in the “fight” between Lauren and Sam early in the issue, which both soften that physical interaction while making it all the more cutting emotionally. Or, it’s in the “This scene brought to you by safe sex…” gag that plays with the strands of sitcom DNA while being among the most charming things in this entire issue. It’s in the angry face of Lauren when she sees Sam and Annie; the depressive posturing of Sam as he and Jack get into a fight; and the boundless emotions of Jack as he acts as both pawn and catalyst for a lot of the happenings in #2. This issue may see the story get bigger in all the right ways, but Fine’s efforts ensure we never lose sight of the sheer intimacy and humanity that moves this story along. Everything is both pretty and ugly, and we live in the art just as much as the story proper.
Music to my Ears: There’s an actual ad for Nipslip’s Bandcamp page tucked into the back of #2. Obviously the music, which sounds like a lo-fi Sleater-Kinney, isn’t made by fictional characters, but I’m willing to make believe just because I really want that to be the case. That right there is why Getting It Together has worked so well thus far: you care about these people and the lives they’re trying to build. You cheer on their triumphs and boo them as they act like whiny jerks during a breakup.
Regardless, they’re already your friends, and be it success or more stumbling, you’re with them through every step. All great stories should be your buddy in this very manner, but it’s the special ones that actually make it happen.
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