Jason is a Norwegian cartoonist who creates alternative comics in the vain of Hergé and others. Here is the first part of what I intend to be a complete review of his, so far, 14 books published in english.
Hey, Wait… (2001)
Although there is truly no need to read Jason’s work chronologically, ‘Hey, Wait…’, his first to be published in english, was my introduction to Jason’s style and utter uniqueness. Jason uses expressionless anthropomorphic characters along with a simple style, and mostly six equal panels per page, in telling this and all of his stories.
What starts out as a series of cute and fun moments of the protagonist’s childhood turns into one of the most memorable comic book moments I can think of. The clean, simple style, enjoyable the whole way through, is almost a trick for when the tale takes a more serious and profound twist that affects how you then go on to finish the story. The theme of a life lived unfulfilled that’s damaged by events in the past streams through it’s second half.
There’s signals that this is possibly someway auto-biographic, and if not only leads this to be more of an impressive creation. With very little dialogue throughout and an almost deadpan delivery of humor at times I declare this to be an absolute classic. Ending on a somber note (not unlike a darker version of the feeling you get at the end of Lost in translation), I knew I was hooked. Nothing at all like what I was expecting, and I’m the better for it. This should be on everyone’s to-read list.
While ‘Hey, Wait…’ had very little dialogue, ‘Shhhh!” is completely silent and utterly engrossing. It effectively tells the story of the lead character’s adult life. Themes such as fatherhood, love lost, living with death and depression are all featured in the ten parts that are ‘Shhhh!’. Each of these segments represents a further development for the suede jacket wearing bird person.
The same art style is seen again here, and throughout all of Jason’s work. It’s incredibly effective in displaying so much emotion and forces the reader to depend on and deceiver the imagery to a degree we may not be used, but find facsinating nonetheless. I particularly liked a humorous sequence where the protagonist thought up of ways to get back, and get back at, an ex-lover who left him for another. Add to that the fact that the story delves unto the surreal towards it’s ending and you have another quite memorable book
The Iron Wagon (2003)
This one turned out be something I did not expect. A fully fledged murder mystery set in the Norwegian countryside in 1909, based on a novel of the same name by Stein Riverton. Think Poirot, but with Jason’s signature style and for the first time color. Just the one though. Orange, used carefully and precisely throughout.
The dialogue and dress attire of the character is all accurate and appropriate of the time giving this a completely different vibe than the last two books. The groundskeeper has been murdered. Our writer protagonist joins the hired detective in visiting and questioning the locals which include the big farm owner and his desirable sister. The Iron Wagon refers to a folktale, where a previous rich owner had the lavish contraption built.
Full of deceit, paranoia and some great characterisation, The ‘Iron Wagon’ won’t soon be forgotten.
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