This time-travel story poses a philosophical question: If you could meet yourself, would the two of you get along?
In this graphic adaptation of Lem’s 1957 short story (first published in English in 1976), a solo astronaut named Ijon Tichy is stuck in a time loop, and he keeps meeting past and future versions of himself. But rather than helping one another out, the multiple versions keep squabbling endlessly, for so long that, eventually, there are elderly Tichys onboard the ship. The many arguments make the story—almost by definition—a little repetitive, but they give Muth an excuse to paint dozens of hilariously baffled, nearly identical (all white) people in matching jumpsuits. For a story with only one character, the panels are surprisingly crowded. His artwork is as expressive as usual, but he’s adopted a different style from the one so recognizable in his Zen Shorts picture books, not quite realistic, not quite cartoonish. It’s almost as though he created a new, constantly befuddled species just for the book. The central joke is strung out a bit too long, and the introduction, written by A. Fraude on April 1, is mildly amusing but feels like padding. The solution to Tichy’s problem, though, when it finally arrives, is poetic, funny, and rather sweet.
This beautifully absurd, sometimes maddening comic book gives new meaning to “Can’t we all just get along?” (Graphic science fiction. 8-12)