The hardest thing to do in comics is to portray an ordinary life with vividness and a respect for both small dramas and silly absurdities. But for more than 20 years, the French cartoonist team of Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian have done just that with their tales of Mr. Jean, a laconic, bulbous-nosed Parisian, following him through his 20s and 30s, through the single life, marriage, and parenthood. In the new Get a Life, Dupuy and Berberian — an unusual pair for their genre, in that they collaborate on both the writing and the drawing — make Mr. Jean an immensely likable ordinary homme.
He’s a struggling writer (the sequence of short stories about the lower-middle-class Mr. Jean adapting his novel into a screenplay and interacting with his blithely cheerful publisher and pot-bellied producers begs for its own movie), and he’s pretty hit-or-miss in love, a clueless romantic. This volume of some of the earliest Mr. Jean stories peaks with Jean’s lurching but sweet courtship of Cathy, a wry, intelligent young woman, as unsentimental as Jean is dreamy, whom it takes Jean 10 years to realize is his true love. By the time you reach the final panel — Mr. Jean and Cathy standing on a bridge over a small lake, the night moonlit — and he says, ”Divine” and she says ”Jerk! ” you know you’ve entered a blessed little moment in comic-strip form.