Jason, 196 pgs, FC, Fantagraphics Books, www.fantagraphics.com $24.99 US, HC
With his deadpan anthropomorphic characters, prolific output and mastery of a variety of storytelling styles – from drama to absurdist comedy – Norwegian cartoonist Jason has consistently proven himself to be among the best in the artform today. Athos in America, which compiles six all-new short stories, covers his broad stylistic pallette and continues a strong tradition.
Jason gives his take on crime stories (“The Smiling Horse”, “So Long, Mary Ann”), melancholic genre mashups (“The Brain that Wouldn’t Virginia Woolf”, “Tom Waits on the Moon”) and even the ultimate in unflattering self-portraits (the hopefully untrue “A Cat From Heaven”).
The title story serves as a prequel of sorts to the previously published The Last Musketeer, providing a bittersweet tale of Athos’ exploits during the early days of Hollywood. As with many of Jason’s previous works, these stories can tread on some pretty dark, even bleak ground, and in the hands of a different artist, it could wear the reader down. However, the simple art and bright flat colours and the aforementioned deadpan characters make the bleakness a bit easier to take. (Matthew Daley)