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Cartoonist Adrian Tomine first made a noise in the mid-’90s for being the R. Crumb of the indie-rock set: The young folks in his comic book Optic Nerve tended to be deeply neurotic, romantically obsessive, and seemingly in possession of a complete set of Tiger Trap 7-inches. His new graphic novel, Shortcomings, first serialized in Optic Nerve, is of a piece with his early work—its hero, Ben, is a nerdy movie-theater manager with girl problems. The plot can’t be reduced to an emo lyric, though: Ben is more troubled than he’d like to admit, both in terms of his go-nowhere job and his racial self-loathing (he’s of Japanese descent), which plays into his sexual fixations (he has a thing for blond women). Tomine’s clean line and black-and-white pages suggest a world that’s orderly and unconflicted, but Shortcomings gets less polite as it goes on, ultimately becoming an intense, nervy portrait of emotional brutalization. Tomine discusses and signs copies of his work at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. —Mark Athitakis