- Posted by Johanna on April 4, 2010 at 10:31 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: by Lewis Trondheim
- PUBLISHER: NBM; $14.95 US
This isn’t a graphic novel so much as a scrapbook, a reprinting of comic strips first published as an online journal. (Third in a series, too; book one is The Curse of the Umbrella, book two The Prisoner Syndrome. The publisher provided a review copy.)
There are plenty of “day in the life” webcomics, but this one stands apart for a multitude of reasons: Trondheim’s outstanding ability, for the most obvious, but also because he has something to say and beautiful things to draw. He does things and goes places, to Venice and Portugal and tropical Reunion Island and Fiji, but he’s still himself, frustrating shopkeepers by knowing exactly which slippers he wants or worrying about whether the wheels on his new suitcase make too much noise.
His observations are fresh and interesting, drawn in detail with style and talent, and absolutely lovely watercolor coloring. His animal-headed people may take a moment to get used to, but they work well, especially the way Trondheim draws himself as a bird. At times, I could hear him squawking, feathers ruffled. One lengthy sequence has him trying to get his pet cat to catch a mouse; another has him frightened by a shark when snorkeling. In between, he works in his studio or shows what he sees while traveling or explores his love of tech-y gadgets.
His attitudes can be crotchety, or they can puncture pretension, as when an attractive, manicured formal garden is shown, ending with the thought “Boxwood shrubs must be the world’s most tortured plant.” He travels the world, but he’s still himself, sometimes fearful, sometimes catty, worrying about growing older. He seems like he’d be an interesting person to talk to, and that personality comes through the work.
Even when he’s simply at home, sorting through old papers, his perspective is unique yet recognizable. On the first page, he ponders how his diary notes when he ran a prestigious comic festival might be worth money someday, then realizes it’s more important to clean things away now, ending with a panel of a dustbin. That’s a motivation I can relate to: wondering how history will see creative work, than getting back to the demands of the present. I also liked a silly little strip about feeling like a superhero just for getting errands done effectively.
Reading each new volume of this series is like a vacation, traveling the world from the comfort of your home, and expanding your mind through vibrant observation and humor. The cartooning is impressive in its achievement, a wonderful journey through both subject matter and skill.