cover image Mister Wonderful

Mister Wonderful

Daniel Clowes, Pantheon, $19.95 (80p) ISBN 978-0-307-37813-2

Schlubby, broke, lonely divorcé Marshall only wants a partner, "someone to read the parts of the paper I throw away (travel, garden)." He's been set up on a date with Natalie, who's more or less perfect for him—operative phrase "more or less." She's got some damage of her own, but they do seem to have at least a touch of chemistry. Over the course of the evening, nearly everything that could go wrong with a tentative flirtation does, including a mugging and a really bad party. Expanded from a serial that ran in the New York Times Magazine, this is a gorgeously staged graphic novella consistently playful and funny on a formal level—there's a running joke involving Marshall's interior monologue covering up images or dialogue, and constant fantasy sequences signaled by drawing-style shifts. It's also the most tightly focused and sweet-tempered of Clowes's books so far, the closest thing he's done to a Woody Allen movie. Still, it wouldn't be Clowes if he didn't show at least a touch of contempt for all of his characters amid the tenderness; the story is a romantic comedy with almost—but not quite—enough caveats to sink any sense of hope. (Apr.)