Even schlubby, middle-aged losers need love. Daniel Clowes puts forth this none-too-groundbreaking argument in his new comic book Mister Wonderful, the most recent entry into a grumpy-men bent that began with last year's Wilson. But what Mister Wonderful lacks in revelatory novelty, it more than makes up for with Clowes' humble story, beautiful artwork, and trademark humor.
The titular Mister Wonderful is Marshall—divorced sad sack, desperate for love and someone to eat bagels with—who anxiously awaits a blind date with Natalie. As the minutes tick by, Natalie apparently a no-show, Marshall laments his miserable luck with women, his interior monologue chattering away, rife with self-hatred and self-importance. Dude's not very likeable. He's broke, proud, laughably crotchety with a hair-trigger temper, and thoroughly up his own ass. But he's also very human. It's a testament to Clowes' prowess that he's able to make readers see themselves in this tragic little man, even if the reflection is of our mean and insecure ways.
It's a good-looking book, too, beautifully packaged by renowned aesthetes Pantheon, yet it's so awkwardly oblong I felt like a folksy exaggerator reading it, continuously gesticulating about the one that got away. It's also in this outer and inner stylishness that Clowes' story hits its mark—gorgeous splash pages dot the book, intercut with cutesy panels to showcase when Marshall is acting particularly childish, with Marshall's thought bubbles frequently obscuring other characters' speech. They're all little flourishes that make this small love story a study of character and growth.