Twenty-two comical, wordless mini-episodes in sequential panels pay terrific tribute to a classic Chaplin-esque character created by actor/filmmaker Jacques Tati for a series of French movies.
Depicted as a nattily attired gent sporting a long pipe and umbrella that often serve as props, Hulot turns Parisian settings into places of magic or play. In “The Crossing,” a crosswalk becomes a series of crevasses to leap; a misguided snowball leads to a general melee in “The Snowball Effect”; shown the No Smoking sign on a bus in “Pipes Allowed,” Hulot responds by blowing bubbles. In other encounters, he props his umbrella in a tree to shelter birds on a rainy day, bends to admire a flower and thus moons a passing official and, trying his hand at plumbing repair, causes water to shoot out of all sorts of unexpected places. Merveille relates each of the loosely linked incidents in a half dozen or so neatly drawn and colored panels capped, after a page turn, with a large, single-panel twist or punch line. Enriching the silent narratives further, he frequently tucks in droll visual jokes or pairings that even less-sophisticated viewers will easily spot and certainly chortle over.
Mr. Hulot may not be as well-known on this side of the pond as the Little Tramp or Buster Keaton, but he definitely merits a seat in the same row. (afterword) (Graphic picture book. 6-9)