Low Moon (Fantagraphics)

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lowmoon-header.jpgFive stories from Norwegian artist Jason, previously featured in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.  

214 pgs. full color; $24.99 hardcover

(W / A: Jason)

 

Jason's work is something to be revered, but there's a vaguely foreign quality to it. This isn't caused by the artist's Norwegian origin—there isn't a language gap or any confusion caused by differing cultural idioms, but on the first reading of any new Jason book, something seems lost in translation. It's not a miscommunication between languages or customs between the US and Scandinavia, it's between Jason's brain and your/my brain.

The cover to Low Moon by Jason. Click for a larger image.That's not to say that Jason doesn't effectively use his medium. His comics are stark and morbid and often hilarious. Low Moon presents five beautifully illustrated stories that show a mastery of the craft. The art—Jason's trademark anthropomorphized animals—is crisp and sharp to the point of appearing digital. On closer inspection, the Schultz-like impurities in lines show distinct humanity and adeptness with a pen. The characters almost always have blank expressions on their faces, and the dialogue is sparse. There aren't many motion lines, but action is apparent. A frightened character's suspension in mid air, a spiral floating above a dog as he climaxes, and the stars flying out of a bunny's knuckles as he punches a stranger are all expressive in a cool and understated way.

The restraint in the art makes Jason's slapstick gags even funnier. The visual humor is a deadpan, so even when the jokes are big, the art gives them the calm appearance of zaniness that's made funnier because of the context. It's absurd in relation to the ordered world around it, yet nothing seems too out of place because the stories themselves are so bizarre. There's a man who kills a woman's ex-boyfriends in exchange for sexual favors, yuppie cowboys, betrayed spouses who refuse to stay murdered, and a decades-long quest to find a wife-stealing alien.

Every page is broken up into 4-panels, which Jason uses to push the tranquility of the stories, eventually causing a disorientation akin to the feeling induced by reading something that's been translated from a language that has nothing in common with English. The stories range from violent to funny to sad, and the tragedies, murders, and pratfalls therein never seem out of the ordinary. It all fits into four rectangular panels on each page that seem like they were drawn to make you understand something more. | Gabe Bullard

Click here for a 12-page excerpt, courtesy of Fantagraphics!

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