The Fly HC (Papercutz edition) – Lewis Trondheim

4 out of 5

A 6″ x 9″, black and white, silent comic; a strict, 9-panel grid; 100 pages; the adventures of an anthropomorphic fly, birthed from its egg and flying about the kitchen. Even without knowing this is a Lewis Trondheim work, the setup and description sounds, likely, “cute,” and that’s about where The Fly sits for a while. Trondheim’s simplistic, goofy style gives our fly googly eyes and funny teeth, and page by page, he learns how to fly, and what to eat, and what’s friendly and what’s not out in the big, bright world of some hapless person’s kitchen.

We get the special dash of Trondheim inventiveness in what he chooses to focus on, though, spending much more time teaching our fly to flutter its wings and discover, say, that sugar is a-okay, than a lesser cartoonist might; an “easier” version of this would be much more slapstick, whereas Trondheim blends between that and silent storytelling – meeting another flying insect and other bugs; discovering an affectation for stinky things.

The grayscale coloring works to add depth so that the pages are continually interesting and, smartly, Trondheim only very sparingly uses a fish-eye type POV, instead keeping our fly front and center in tight shots so that we’re discovering the world alongside it. However, some of the silent communications are occasionally inscrutable, with even story context not adding enough to justify how many beats they take, and there’s a point where it seems like we’ve suddenly gone surreal that changes the bouncy tone of the tale…

…That last point, though, is where The Fly actually takes off into the Trondheim stratosphere of creativity, though, pushing the last quarter or so of the tale out of the “cute” and into twistedly hilarious sci-fi stuff, making the book much more than a novelty.

The Papercutz English edition of this includes a Trondheim intro, an afterword from the publisher explaining the long journey the book took to its translation, and a fun interview with Trondheim about its genesis.