It's hard to think of a modern cartoonist with a more recognizable drawing style than Norway's Jason. From his signature anthropomorphized characters—generally gaunt, straight-faced animals in button-up shirts and blouses—to the lonely or claustrophobic clear-line environments in which they're placed, there's just no mistaking the one-name artist's work for anyone else's.
But Jason's storytelling is just as distinctive as his drawing style: He plays heavily on the conventions of both classic comics and early cinema, his characters appearing with Krazy Kat-style squiggles of frustration or falling flat on their backs in surprise. And though his early long-form works—2001's Hey, Wait! and 2002's Sshhh!—were fairly straightforward (albeit gorgeously drawn) melodramatic stories with little text to clutter their emotional thrusts, the artist's narrative approach has grown more adventurous over the years.
Jason's latest collection, Low Moon, is evidence of this trend. Here we find the artist dabbling in all stripes of death: Lynchian (Emily Says Hello), Hitchcockian () and just plain gratuitous (You Are Here). But it's the titular story, which first appeared as part of the New York Times Magazine's excellent Funny Pages feature, that demonstrates all of Jason's strengths. Set in a reimagined Old West town where chess replaces gunfighting as the primary mode of settling disputes (and the saloon only serves fancy coffee), Low Moon is calmly lyrical, hilarious and befuddling. When a declaration of checkmate causes a cowboy to tumble from a nearby rooftop, even the characters themselves seem confused. The reader, meanwhile, just lapses into a giddy comics coma.
SEE/READ: Jason signs copies of Low Moon at Cosmic Monkey Comics, 5335 NE Sandy Blvd., 517-9050. 4-7 pm Wednesday, June 10. Free.