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Mister O
posted July 5, 2004

Creatos: Lewis Trondheim
Publishing Info: NBM
Ordering Numbers:

For all that they spend on a weekly basis, comics consumers can be a notoriously cheap bunch, analyzing differences in price and format with a gourmand's eye for nuance. Lewis Trondheim's Mister O might seem like a perfect target for that crowd: a $12.95 album only 32 pages long, in a spare cartoon style the opposite of dense. And there aren't even any words! Listen to the bargain shopper at your own peril. Mister O shows off Trondheim's cartooning skill with 32 70-panel comic fables about a creature that wants to cross a chasm. The fat little fellow never succeeds, with the fun coming in the experience of learning just how he submarines his chances each time out. Variations on a theme and abject failure following a concerted effort are both tried and true sources of humor that Trondheim mines very effectively. The book does at times have a cumulative effect, but no individual page depends on a past incident so as to keep from being enjoyed on its own. It's all gag work and pacing; the former resulting in several payoffs a page and the latter meaning Trondheim holds your interest so you don't simply slide from one joke to the next. The best laughs of several chuckle-out-loud moments in the book involve the character trying to replicate a useful, just-seen biological aberration only to have the new subject of his attention die due to the attempt. Even that motif only shows up a maximum of three times and always in very different ways. Given the same parameters, nine out of ten cartoonists would make some of the dreariest books in the world. It ends up being nearly as entertaining to watch the cartoonist keep it together page after page as it is to ready the silly mini-stories themselves -- all of the good exercises-turned-books have that kind of stunt work quality. The degree of difficulty that comes with telling a rudimentary story very simply 32 times in a row is a scary chasm all its own; Trondheim makes it across almost every time.