Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pocket Full of Rain by Jason

What is the opposite of anthropomorphism?

The Norwegian comics creator Jason has quite the impressive body of work. His most recently published book, Pocket Full of Rain, is a collection of some of his early work, much of which has not, as far as I am aware, been published in English until now.

Jason’s comic storytelling typically exchanges human faces for animal ones. This is typically referred to as anthropomorphism, ascribing human characteristics to animals, but I almost feel that his art ascribes animal characteristics to humans, and I’m not sure what the word for that is.

In any case, the majority of this volume does not employ this technique, which was surprising to see. Because the stories within Pocket Full of Rain come from such an early time in his career, there is a lot of experimentation in style here. This book serves as a very interesting slice of Jason’s evolution as an artist.

The graphic novella Pocket Full of Rain takes up the first fifty or so pages of the book which bears its name. Here the characters are human, but the story does not lack the sense of surreality that exists in almost all of Jason’s books. Occasionally a zombie or a monster will appear, and an ostrich seems to rescue a man; evidently it is possible to vacation on the moon. But the story itself very much remains within Jason’s wheelhouse: a police sketch artist falls in love with a woman with a troubled past, and together they have to deal with her hitman of an ex-boyfriend. Later in the volume we see some early strip ideas, some short one and two page comics, and just a few that are slightly longer than that, though nothing approaching the length of Pocket Full of Rain itself.

The one and two page stories are a mixed bag. All are worth reading, and all are very interesting. They run the range from downright bizarre to utterly disturbing to absolutely brilliant. And of course there’s a fair bit of humor mixed in.

I would would find it hard to believe that anyone, after reading a few Jason books, could not list him among his or her favorite cartoonists. He has a universal appeal that, I believe, will only grow. Each of his books is as good or better than the one released before it. And though this volume cannot compare to his more recent works, it certainly gives someone with a love for Jason a bit of insight into the process.

Another neat thing about this book from a personal perspective is the small amount of commentary by Jason in the index of the book. The wonderful introduction by another acclaimed cartoonist, James Sturm, is the icing on the cake.

While I wouldn’t recommend this as your first Jason book, it is an absolute must for anyone who has enjoyed his previous releases.

My favorite bit:

A zombie holding a sign that says DEAD while saying ‘Y’got a dollar?’

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