01/09/2009. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy
pub: Fantagraphics. 214 page graphic novel hardback. Price: $24.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-606-99155-8.
check out website: www.fantagraphics.com
This volume of cartoon tales features five stories. All the characters walk upright but have the heads of dogs. The first story is 'Emily Says Hello' in which a male character reports to a female character that he has killed a man or another male character, at least. 'Emily says hello' being the last words the victim heard before he shot him.
He plays a tape of the experience for proof. Emily allows him to fondle her breasts and puts an 'x' through a picture on the wall. Next scene, the man comes back and tells her how he killed another, again playing the tape recording as proof. She gives him a hand job which is not shown n detail - thank God! - but he does have curly red lines emanating from his head to indicate orgasm - a graphics innovation that will catch on like Kirby krackle, I'm sure. This continues with him getting slightly more intimate sex next time as his reward. I will not give away the ending but it is pretty downbeat.
'Low Moon' is the story which gives the book its title. Again, all the characters look like Deputy Dawg which suits here. At high noon (geddit?), a train pulls into town and a dark suited hombre gets off and walks into town. One of the locals spots him and rushes to tell the sheriff. Turns out its Bill McGill back in town after three years in jail. He wants a showdown with the sheriff who beat him back then, a re-match at sun up. This is the world's first chess western and gently spoofs the genre.
'&' tells the story of two men. One is trying to get $10,000 together to pay for an operation to save his sick mother. The other is desperate to marry a girl who wants to keep him as a friend. 'You're a close friend,' she tells him. 'I don't want to lose this friendship. I treasure it.' We've all been there. His solution is to kill her fiancÚ and then kill the next one when she gets another. Meanwhile, the chap who needs $10,000 dollars is trying to burgle a rich man's house in a sort of Buster Keaton caper.
In 'Proto Film Noir' a dog-headed character dressed as a caveman arrives at a suburban house and screws the wife - doggy-style of course - while the husband is out in the garden. Then he kills the husband and buries him. The husband cheerily re-appears at breakfast time. The plot thickens but I've given away enough plots.
'You Are Here' has a man's wife kidnapped by aliens. Naturally, he spends the next twenty years building a rocket in his garden to follow them, while his son grows up and has a family.
Jason's style of drawing is sparse and simple with no captions and few word balloons which leaves the reader reliant on the pictures to follow the story. His characters are all anthropomorphic animals, usually dogs but sometimes beaked creatures, too. He is from Norway where, I guess, they have a strange sense of humour. Certainly, they seem to have given him plenty of awards for his work. Having been raised on British and American comics, tales of derring-do and drama, I find this deadpan noir comedy a bit odd in picture form but it's certainly diverting.
As physical objects, the Fantagraphics books are very nice, beautifully produced hard covers with excellent paper quality. It seems slightly strange to devote such quality materials to such simple drawings, like a 'Beano' printed on vellum. At least they will last a long time.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA