Mister O

Lewis Trondheim, Illustrator
Lewis Trondheim, Illustrator . NBM $12.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-56163-382-1
Reviewed on: 05/03/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
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There couldn't be a simpler premise than the one that drives every one of this book's 30 cartoons of 60 tiny, wordless panels apiece: Mr. O is a tiny geometrical stick figure whose path is interrupted by a chasm. All he wants is to make it to the other side (which every other creature and character in the book seems to be able to do without a problem), but every scheme he tries lands him at the bottom of the pit (which is off-panel, but seems to be a very long way down). The effect is reminiscent of a collection of Charlie-Brown-and-the-football strips or Road Runner cartoons stripped down to their barest, micro-minimal essence of line, color and existential frustration, and ending up with something universal and hilarious. From the book's outset, French cartoonist Trondheim sets up the ground rules for the strip's look and content—the laws of physics here are a bit different from the ones in our world, but they are consistent—and then runs through an increasingly complicated (and hysterically funny) set of variations on the crossing-the-chasm problem. Mr. O tries bridges, wings, springs, levers, hot air, an airplane, a teleportation device and several unusual (and scatological) options to get across, with the same fatal result every time. It seems like an idea that could generate an infinite number of gags, but Trondheim actually comes up with a perfectly apt conclusion to the book that's its best and darkest joke. (May)

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