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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Low Moon. Jason (Writer & Artist). Kim Thompson (Translation). Fantagraphics Books (2009)

This collection of stories features very strong story ideas, deadpan delivery and sharply bitter outcomes combining to from a great set of comics. "Emily says Hello" is a tale of revenge, murder and sexual favours. What is left out is as important as what is included and as you read the story the absences draw you into the narrative as you imagine the back story for yourself."Low Moon" is a brilliant re-imagining of "High Noon" with a game of chess rather than a gunfight at the heart of the story. "&" is a twin track narrative about the lengths people will go to achieve their goals and the slippery nature of such goals. "Proto Film Noir" plays off "The Postman Always Rings Twice" in the story of a drifter and a woman who murder the woman's husband with very unexpected results. "You are Here" which about an alien abduction and its consequences is the strongest story in the collection, while still very harsh it gives it cast more depth and feeling.
The initially most striking aspect to the stories is the art, all the cast are anthropomorphic, with dog and bird like heads on human shaped bodies. The body language and facial expressions are very expressive and they are as far as possible from "funny animal" drawings. The use of a regular four panel grid for all the stories means that the layout offers no cues about the narrative, this deadpan delivery draws the reader in as you have to decide for yourself what the emotional speed of the story is.
The colouring is restricted and flat which sits comfortably with the layouts, the cool tones are easy to read and flow beautifully. With so little direct support from either the art, the layout or the colouring the writing has to work extremely hard to be effective. The ideas have the necessary strength and apparent simplicity to fit with the structure and are executed with such spare and detailed exactness that they shine. The stories have a crisp momentum that is a pleasure to read, the content is sharp and bitter, the skill in the writing is such that they are a pleasure to read. This is an extraordinary comic, it exploits unexpected minimalist possibilities superb effect.

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