Mister O

By Lewis Trondheim
32 pages, color
Published by NBM

Every time there’s a new Lewis Trondheim book printed for the North American market, I feel like I should cheer. Slice-of-life, humor, mystery, fantasy, science-fiction… there isn’t a genre or style that Trondheim hasn’t conquered in France. Now Mister O is available thanks to NBM, although I have to chuckle to myself at the thought of the book being “translated” since, like Trondheim’s Li’l Santa books, Mister O is wordless.

Mister O is a round little guy who has a very simple goal—get to the other side of a chasm. And thus begins our saga, as he tries everything from bridges to catapults to get to the other side. Only, well, just when you think Mister O has found the foolproof way to get there, guess again.

Trondheim’s Mister O stories remind me a bit of old Warner Brothers cartoons as the Coyote desperately tries to catch the Roadrunner. Each plan is more elaborate than the one before, cleverly trying a new tactic to get to that elusive other side. And each time, well, disaster strikes. Sometimes it’s bad planning, sometimes it’s another being conspiring against him, and sometimes it’s just bad luck. What’s nice is that you never know just why it’s going to go wrong, and the anticipation of the sudden twist is half of the fun with this book. And just when you think you won’t be surprised any more… well, Trondheim pulls something new out of his hat.

Let no one say that Trondheim can’t pack the panels onto a page. Since each page of Mister O is its own contained story, Trondheim doesn’t waste a single inch of space, with his 6×10 grid resulting in 60 panels per page. His art style is understandably stripped down for this feat, depicting Mister O and his compatriots as circles with stick-figure faces and limbs. What’s impressive is how with such a minimalist art style and no words to fall back on, still Trondheim has complete command of the story. There’s never any doubt on what’s going through Mister O’s head, and exactly what’s happening to him. Forget intricate cross-hatching, ultra-rendered figures, and lens flares; you can’t get much clearer and easy to understand art than this.

I’m delighted that NBM is continuing to bring Trondheim’s books to a wider audience. This is the sort of book that you can pick up, read a couple of pages, and get a good laugh. Or, if you’d prefer, read the whole thing in one fell swoop and let the cycle of attempt and defeat build up to an even more satisfying climax. Either way, good times are ahead for you and Mister O.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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