An expansion of the strip initially serialized in the New York Times Magazine.
During the brief period when that publication was experimenting with graphic narrative and other serializations, Clowes reached a wider readership, many of them unaware of the renown he’d earned with works like Ghost World (1997). Whether as an introduction to or an affirmation of his comic artistry, this novella-scaled narrative shows the complex, sophisticated possibilities inherent within the artist’s work and the graphic-narrative format. The “Mister Wonderful” of the title is a middle-aged divorcé named Marshall, waiting at a coffee shop for a blind date who is either very late or who has stood him up. When Natalie belatedly shows, his interior monologue gives way to dialogue, as Clowes artfully conveys what they’re thinking and hearing (or think they’re hearing) as they’re talking. Natalie is far more attractive than Marshall had any reason to anticipate, and she seems to respond to him more warmly than he feels he deserves. She turns out to be as neurotic as he is needy, yet both invite the reader’s empathy. After a late start and an awkward process of getting to know each other, they seem to be getting along very well when Natalie reveals she has a party to attend and has to cut their evening short. Yet she ultimately invites Marshall to accompany her to the party, where he knows no one and she finds herself in a position of heightened drama. By the end of a long night, they are somehow still together, though the resolution is no more certain than it would be in life.
Clowes finds heightened reality in caricature.