Marc Weidenbaum's Reviews > Life With Mr. Dangerous

Life With Mr. Dangerous by Paul Hornschemeier
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's review
Oct 13, 2011

bookshelves: comic

One of the things that distinguishes comics from text-only fiction is how much more clearly influence bleeds through. You can read Jonathan Lethem's As She Crawled Across the Table and not necessarily note the imprimatur of Don DeLillo. You would be hard put, though, in work even as solid as comics artist Paul Hornschemeier's not to see in his drawings and settings the presence of Daniel Clowes, Adrian Tomine, Chris Ware, James Kochalka, perhaps even John Pham, and others. That's fine, as those artists draw from each other, but it's still a distraction here.

The story itself is sweet. The suggestion that it is sweet probably counts as a "spoiler," because by all appearances -- that is, to the extent that it resembles several other artists' work, artists who are more associated with downer than sweetness -- it is not to be uplifting in any way, and by any means. A young woman in a dead-end job whose life eerily resembles that of her deader-ender mother recounts her past failed relationships in between ending her most recent and trying out her various next options, all the while avoiding acknowledging to herself just how much she is pining for one person in particular. Her addiction to a cartoon provides the book's title and her moral compass -- to a fault: she ditches one seemingly pleasant companion because he doesn't like the cartoon.

Part of what makes Hornschemeier's work work is that he doesn't have the almost eerily mechanical agility of those other artists (well, put aside Kochalka's playfulness for a moment, and just focus on the others mentioned above). He tries for it -- still figures with slumped shoulders who seem to move even more slowly than the inadequate life around them -- but the subtle variation in how his characters are drawn gives them a life, seemingly despite his attempts at being artfully diagrammatic. It would be great to see him put aside the well-documented comic-book norms of rigid slacker domesticity and take advantage of the variation in his own line. His story is sweet, and his drawing could be, too.
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