Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: Low Moon, by Jason

Low MoonMy rating: 3 of 5 stars

Here's another one from that indefatigable single-named Norwegian artist and writer, Jason...Low Moon includes five stories, all featuring Jason's trademark minimalistic, undeviating art style; stiff anthropomorphic animals, mostly dogs; easy, silent movie-inspired writing; and sharp attention to detail.

The showpiece of this collection is the one on the cover. No, not "Low Moon," the title story and so-so western-style tale of a duel that is fought with chess pieces instead of guns. I mean instead "&", the story whose last panel graces the cover. First, how do you pronounce it? "and"? "ampersand"? "the artist formerly known as..."? Second, what's not to like about this story? Actually, it's two: two simultaneous stories, one told on the left page and the other on the right. Both are typical of this collection, about two protagonists who know what they want and will do anything to get it. They both see their plans through, yet both end up at a bar sitting next to a perfect stranger...

The other four stories are passable, if not outrageously successful. "Emily Says Hello" has a cool premise and a dramatic ending. "Low Moon" is, as I said, so-so, with a series of schticks that don't all shtick."Proto Film Noir" is probably the quirkiest of the bunch, and consequently my least favorite; it has an unfabulous ending, too. And lastly, "You Are Here" ends the book on a sweet note that didn't ring with me.

The art is, again, "passable, if not outrageously successful." The lines are straight as can be, and the art is generally not without a visual punchline. But I want more. I like the way this book looks -- but all his books look this way. I have read three of them and I am getting awfully tired of all these plain, single-color backgrounds! Even the layouts are uninspired: in this book we get nothing but the same four-paneled pages throughout.

Mind you, I get it: the simple style, besides being worthy on its own account, also allows Jason to comfortably produce one or two good sized books each year. There's something to be said about that method, especially for the young ambitious upstart, but surely Jason is past that. Surely he can afford to slow down, to elaborate on and fill in his well-established style.

What I like most about Jason's books are their unpretentiousness. Reading his books always makes me think, "Oh yeah, this is what the kids are reading!" but that doesn't discourage me. His books are hip, it seems, but they never lose track of telling a story, of entertaining. There's no impenetrable art house gunk in here -- or if there is, it doesn't clog up the machinery.

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