Low Moon: Deadpan Funny Animals and Existentialism
the Norwegian comics writer/artist known as Jason does not create the most approachable stories out there. There's a certain coldness and detachment to his work, where his funny animal characters barely if ever express emotions and have a tendency to under react to whatever situation he has put them in. Jason rarely gives his characters a happy ending, more often than not ending a story with a sort of existentialist shrug: nothing his characters do actually matters in the grand scheme of things, outside of their own lives (and sometimes not even that much).
And yet. despite the emotional detachment, I find myself tracking his work down, because there is something fascinating about the simplicity of his plots and drawing style (which is a great example of the European "clear line" style that is very distinct from either American or manga drawing styles). This book, "Low Moon," is especially fascinating, as with each of the five stories contained within Jason has given his own twist on a different genre, whether it be the western (the titular story), science fiction ("You Are Here"), or sexual crime drama ("Emily Says Hello," 'Proto Film Noir"). Some of these work better than others, but overall this is a great collection.
The title story is easily my favorite, depicting a typical western set up of troublesome drifter with revenge on his mind coming to town, to be opposed by the sheriff whose confidence was destroyed by their last match. The conceit for this story? Their duel is fought not with guns, but with chess. It sounds silly, but somehow in the context of the story it works. Also great is "You Are Here," about the relationship between a man and his father after his mother is randomly abducted by aliens. We never find out why, and in fact the alien abduction (and the father's plan to build a rocket to chase after her) is just a set up to show how this event affects the man's life as he grows up, gets married, and has a child of his own.
The other stories are all alright, but are not strong as strong as the other two. "Proto Film Noir" is amusing, featuring a cave man and cave woman engaging in an affair who attempt to kill the woman's husband off, only for him to come back from the dead blissfully unaware of what's going on, but it ends on a weird note, as if Jason didn't know how to finish it and just threw in a totally random ending. "&" parallels the lives of two young men, one of whom is trying to steal enough money to pay for an operation to save his mother's life, the other off whom attempts to kill of the suitors of the woman he loves in increasingly ridiculous ways. The thing is, only the story of the man who kills off the other suitors actually goes anywhere, and the story probably would have been stronger had it just focused on him. Finally, "Emily Says Hello" suffers from Jason's unwillingness to explain what's going on. The story, where a man kills people for a woman who then performs sexual favors for him, has no weight because Jason refuses to tell us who the people being murdered are and why the woman wants them to die, meaning that the story has no meaning other than a series of scenes of sex.
However, none of the stories are bad, and all of them feature Jason's beautiful artwork and humorously existentialist viewpoint. If you're OK with a certain amount of emotional distance, check this collection out, as Jason is a modern comics master.