Little Nothings Vol. 1: The Curse of the Umbrella

By Lewis Trondheim
128 pages, color
Published by NBM

Over the years I’ve seen all sorts of stories from Lewis Trondheim; slapstick comedy, apocalyptic futures, hapless alien invaders, and long-form slice-of-life stories. I must admit that of all of the different things that he’s dipped into, the one I wouldn’t have expected to enjoy the most was a collection of single-page autobiographical comics. Once again, though, Trondheim’s vast talents are fully on display.

Lewis, his wife, and children live a pretty normal life. Looking individually at everything that happens to them, it’s mostly unexpected things; a flat tire, adopting kittens, going on a business trip. What really makes the stories sing, though, is not each one on their own, but watching the progression of one “little nothing” to the next.

Trondheim writes his stories in a very matter-of-factly, sometimes self-depreciating way. What I like is that because it’s at least in part narrated by his internal thoughts, he’s able to bring a very human, realistic feel to the page. You genuinely get the feeling that this is the way he thinks and talks, not cleaned up for the purposes of being read by the masses. Early on, individual pages are entertaining but also feel like they’re in isolation, each one independent of its fellows. It’s only as you get a little further in that you realize this isn’t the case. Elements recur from one vignette to the next, be it an actual event or item, or just a neurosis of Trondheim’s. Trondheim also begins to tell extended stories as the book progresses, from journeys to the French town and massive comic book convention Angouleme, to the far off city of Hong Kong. Perhaps the most amusing storyline is where the book gets its subtitle, as a spate of good luck convinces Trondheim that bad things are about to follow and his attempts to negate them. It’s such an honest, familiar moment that it’s hard at that point to not fall in love with the book.

Trondheim’s art is typically beautiful. Drawing himself and others as animal-headed people is an effect that works quite well, giving each person their own distinct look (something that can’t always happen in real life, and also getting to sidestep the issue of having everyone look like their “real” selves). His loose pencils bring a slight sense of whimsy to the book, the feeling that there’s always something fun happening in each story. One especially nice part of the art is how instead of using strict panel borders, Trondheim makes each panel a splash of color on the white page. It brings across a sense that each panel is a brief glimpse into Trondheim’s life, something that’s perfect for this series. Add in Trondheim’s excellent usage of watercolors to really make each scene pop off the crisp white background and it ends with a beautiful book.

Up until now, I’d always appreciated and enjoyed Trondheim’s works, but I feel like he’s taken his craft to a new level here. I was delighted to see that this is marked as a “Volume 1” because that gives me great hope that we’ll see another collection before too long. I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting it. Highly recommended.

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