If I hadn’t known that “True Story, Swear to God” was a real story, I think I’d still like it. Tom Beland’s story of two strangers meeting at a bus stop and falling for other despite the geographical distance (he’s from California, she’s from Puerto Rico) is that sort of moment that seems wonderful and slightly implausible and dream-worthy all wrapped up into one. It’s the idea that there really is someone out there just waiting for you — the one that is used in so many different forms of media — that we’re getting here. Except, of course, this is the true-life story of Tom Beland and Lily Garcia and how they met.
Reading “True Story, Swear to God,” it helps that Beland isn’t afraid to portray himself with the proverbial warts-and-all in his own comic. One can’t help but wonder in a lot of autobiographical comics, if people are putting themselves in the best possible light. You never get that feeling from Beland. He’s able to mock himself here, amping up his personality at times with good effect. (If anything, it’s Lily who comes across as the particularly smart and level-headed one in the comic, something that I suspect Beland would agree with.) In the latest issue he’s also able to really get across a great sense of awkward pride, nervousness, and self-consciousness when it comes to his own comic being on sale at the local store. (The first, self-published series of “True Story, Swear to God” ran for 17 issues before moving to Image Comics.)
If I had one quibble about the writing, though, it’s that with each new issue I often get a sense that the story is unfolding at a snail’s pace. It’s a tough line to walk, because on the one hand I love getting little vignettes peppered throughout each issue, like Tiana and Danny bickering with each other, or Beland’s joy over finding someone else who likes to watch football and play video games. At the same time, though, when it takes an entire issue just to place where the wedding will be… well… it’s frustrating because you want to see everything happen so much speedier. (It certainly says a lot about how well Beland is able to pull you into the story that you want more, and quickly!)
I do quite like Beland’s art; he’s got a fine, smooth, thin ink line that is able to sketch his characters in just a few deft strokes. From the eyebrows that seem to hover slightly off of people’s faces, to the layers of fine lines that form the shading of Lily’s hair (and works far better than any sort of pre-created zip-a-tone fill-in would look), there are lots of little hallmarks of Beland’s art style that you quickly learn to recognize and like here. Beland keeps his lettering well-integrated into the art as well; when Tiana is grumbling at Danny, I love how the last word balloon looks like a dark thundercloud, her annoyance coming across far clearer than any sort of bold face emphasis could have created.
It’s funny, because writing this review I’d decided at the beginning that I would be assigning it a 3 1/2 star rating. By the time I was done, I’d fallen in love with the book all over again. Surely this was a four star book, right? Yes, absolutely. So, I had to go back up and amend the review, because the more I had to think about the book, the better it was. True story, swear to God. Somehow, I think Beland would approve.