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on 17 April 2011
Mister Wonderful is the story of Marshall, a damaged divorcee meeting another damaged divorcee in a coffee shop on a blind date. The book covers their evening, taking in their awkward first encounter, and their brief misadventures from there. It's nothing too dramatic - it is Dan Clowes! - but I don't want to give away the whole story here as it's quite a short book.

If you've read Clowes before you'll be familiar with the characters - neurotic, nervous, awkward people struggling with basic things like polite conversation and self-expression. Marshall and his date are the same, Clowes-ian characters you've seen before in his other books like Ghost World, Caricature, Ice Haven, etc.

While the book is a decent read, it's very much like Clowes' previous work and doesn't really do anything different to stand out from them. It's not as funny as "Wilson" but is interesting enough to make it worth checking out if you enjoy indie comics. Comparatively though, he's done better and the book is about as close to a cookie-cutter Clowes book as you could get.
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on 16 December 2015
This is a beautifully drawn piece of work, bursting with vibrant, eye popping colour that really brings the story alive. As with his other work this isn’t afraid to tread into the darker edges of town, playing with other styles, harking back to other eras too. It's a multi-layered affair using surrealism, flashbacks, dream sequences whilst seemingly having a pop at the traditional idea of a super hero.
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on 14 October 2013
If gamma radiation turns you into the Hulk and radioactive spider bites turns you into Spider-Man, to say nothing of the hijinks that created Bouncing Boy, then perhaps it is feasible that smoking turns you into the Death-Ray. Well, not YOU per se, but that's certainly what happened to troubled teenager Andy.

In keeping with the conventions of the superhero genre - a genre which Daniel Clowes enjoys subverting rather than one which he simply enjoys - The Death-Ray features an unlikely hero with a troubled home life as well as an outlandish origin story. After Andy's mother dies, he is raised by his father, a famous scientist, and then, following his father's death, he moves across country to live with his grandparents. Then granny dies too and Andy is left in the care of a grandfather who is rapidly succumbing to dementia and who is himself nearly entirely dependent on his surprisingly alluring Home Help, Dinah. New in town and something of a dweeb [although apparently with a hot girlfriend back in California], Andy has one friend at school - the rather obnoxious Louie.

Andy's drab little life takes a turn for the strange after Louie persuades him to take a puff of a cigarette. That night he wakes, heart pounding, to discover that his once weedy body is imbued with nicotine-fuelled superhuman strength and that, amongst other feats of physical prowess, he can now rip copies of The Odyssey apart with the greatest of ease. As Andy attempts to master his new powers, he discovers that life has one further surprise in store for him in the delightfully retro shape of a gun that can vaporise anything.

The Death-Ray is a wonderfully pessimistic take on the superhero genre. After discovering his powers Andy, encouraged by Louie, take the regulation step of deciding to become a superhero but quickly discovers that the superhero life is not as straightforward as he imagines. Although a cheesy hero costume was easy to come by, super-villains are far from prevalent in their small town and so Andy and Louie have to take quite extreme steps in order to find baddies to fight. Clowes uses Andy's desire to be a hero at any cost to take The Death-Ray in a direction rarely taken by superhero comics. Although many a hero is motivated by Uncle Ben's maxim that with great power comes great responsibility, there is little exploration of the notion that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Clowes' exploration of the darkness in Andy's psyche is therefore both intriguing and alarming.

The story of The Death-Ray is presented in not quite linear style as the book begins with a middle-aged Andy giving a brief overview of his life in 2004. How Andy came to e in that situation, both the truth and the more ambiguous elements of his nitial statement, is then explored through a series of vignettes charting the mundane adventures of Andy and Louie as well as the power of the eponymous death-ray. Although Andy does serve as a narrator throughout the book, most of the story is told through speech and Daniel Clowes has once again excelled with his dialogue. The artistic style of The Death-Ray is naturally reminiscent of Clowes' more famous books, such as Ghost World and David Boring, with realistic characters, a surfeit poignant alienation and plenty of muted pastel colours.

One thing worth noting: if the story of The Death-Ray sounds a little familiar, that's probably because it was originally published as a single-issue story in Clowes' Eightball #23 back in 2004. However, that original story has been expanded to create this handsome hardback edition of The Death-Ray [even the publishing information at the beginning has been given the Clowes' treatment] so there is new material to be enjoyed. Melancholic and real, even during the extraordinary moments, The Death-Ray is classic Daniel Clowes.
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After a month of reading a Kindle, it was a pleasure to hold such a beautifully-produced book in my hands, with sturdy pages and bright, colourful illustrations. These cartoons are available on a website, but it isn't the same as reading a hardback with such high production values. If the paper book is going to survive, then it is titles like this that will endure.

As far the story goes, it is a far more straightforward affair than Clowes' other comic books, but I still found it poignant and moving. With its themes of loneliness, despair and redemption, at times 'Mr Wonderful' read like an Anne Tyler novel that had been sucked into a black hole and compressed to a tiny, dense lump of disappointment and hope. It's a short read, but I still felt satisfied at the end.

This is a comic for grown-ups. There are no pyrotechnics and middle-aged angst won't be everyone's cup of tea, but it worked for me.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 April 2014
This is an amusing and slightly pathetic romantic comedy by Daniel Clowes. I like the format and the writing style but it's not his best work. If you don't know his work, I would recommend Ghost World and David Boring. (I don't think Caricature is as good).
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on 25 February 2012
i enjoyed this comic but its a minor work by daniel clowes. its quite slight and nowhere near as good as 'ghost world', 'david boring' or 'velvet glove...' - hopefully he'll produce something more substantial soon...
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on 5 June 2011
I saw this book in a shop and picked it up because I haven't a lot of experience with comics/graphic novels, but I liked the fact that it seemed to be about ordinariness. The beginning is strong, witty and self-depracating. I also liked the style of the text and the structure.
Maybe I'm just too bitter and British, or maybe I just like inner voices a bit too much, because it does those so well. I just think it found resolution too quickly; a bit too wonderful, too soon for me.
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'The Death Ray' is another in Daniel Clowes' series of - well, what does one call them? graphic novellas? In this case, the original appeared in 2004 in Eightball 23, but this is the first book edition.

'The Death Ray' anticipates something of the mood of 'Wilson', in that it centres on a morally ambiguous individual whose difficult progress through life raises issues of personal identity and moral responsibility. At the same time it paints a portrait of an anomic America that peels away the surface glitter and exposes lives almost deprived of meaning. In the case of 'Andy', a troubled teen living with his grandfather after the deaths of his mother and father, meaning arrives at the age of seventeen in the form of an unexpected ability and a gift from his deceased father: the 'death ray' of a thousand pulp science fiction tales.

Clowes is a first-rate writer and illustrator; the large format allows the full-colour artwork space to breathe, and anybody familar with his work - particularly 'Ghost World', 'Ice Haven' and 'Wilson' - will find this well up to his high standards. It's no exaggeration to say that the narrative and moral complexities here are comparable to those in the better contemporary American fiction. Clowes is a must-read, and a must-reread author.
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on 8 November 2014
I love Daniel Clowes, but some of his comics are better than others. This is not a number 1 for me, still a decent comic but the edition in hard cover make it a bit too expensive for what you get...
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on 28 April 2011
This was serialised in the New York Times last year (or even the year before) and it is still available online from the NY Times website as a series of PDF files. Anyone who isn't certain about whether they should get this Clowes title can read the story online, or even download and print the PDFs before (or even instead of) buying this particular comic.
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