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Just A Simple Wedding
posted May 12, 2009


Creator: Lynn Johnston
Publishing Information: Andrews McMeel, softcover, 120 pages, 2009, $12.99
Ordering Numbers: 9780740780974 (ISBN13), 0740780972 (ISBN10)

Reading the final soft-cover collection of the much loved For Better Or For Worse, a decades-long tribute to decency in human relationship, shouldn't feel this weird. But it does. In fact, it struck me a few strips near the end that it would totally fit were we to find out on the last page that everything happened just as we saw it except that newly-married daughter Elizabeth died in a helicopter accident a couple of years earlier and what we witnessed in the wedding scenes was a Mom's desire to have her daughter safe and happy and, maybe most of all, present.

Just A Simple Wedding is a deeply fascinating book for that reason and many more. You can see within it one of the potential post-FBOFW directions during an extended reminiscence instigated by Michael's family. There is one sequence about Michael's children being moved into separate rooms that is about as sweet and well-played and most importantly well-selected a run through a relatable domestic issue as the strip offered up in its glory years. There are a lot of Elly being horrified strips, which is one of the feature's hallmarks. Mostly it seems like a strong feature with legs, which is the way every long-running entertainment would choose to go out, I think. The Patterson were never supposed to be our own. In our own families kids get drunk and wreck cars and scream hideous things at their parents at night, and people are lonely and truly afraid of things. The Pattersons were always a decency fantasy, that family you had dinner with when your family was acting nuts that seemed much, much calmer and nice than your own and probably was. Poised at the exits, they still seem like nice people.

The problem is that the final wedding doesn't work. Not for me, anyway. I'm not invested in any of these characters, so I don't feel any sense of disappointment that the one daughter who seemed destined to leave town and explore things in a different way than her older brother who bough the family home and married his own elementary school love interest is roped back into the more familiar domestic circle. I don't even have negative memories of the Anthony character -- he was more of a feature when I wasn't reading the strip. I just found the whole sequence poorly executed. We're told on the back cover that Elizabeth and Anthony rekindle their romance, but I don't detect anything resembling a romance here -- just a slow, drip, drip, drip capitulation to taking one's place in a very specific domestic setting. In professional wrestling terms, Anthony seems like the booking agent's son who's programmed to win the match but draws the ire of smarter fans because he does so in such a loaded fashion. He never makes a wrong step, which makes him feel less mature than a convenient bundle of character qualities. Johnston even brings in former boyfriend Warren to portray him as the least appealing person in the world for a few days in order to load things in Anthony's favor. The whole thing feels less like viewing a romance and more like losing an argument with your Mom. It's an odd way to say goodbye, but some farewells are like that where family is concerned.