Review by Frank Plowright
Low Moon is a collection of five stories, each very different from the remainder, but connected by Jason’s sparse and distanced storytelling and his equally compact art.
The longest of them is the title piece, that title a play on the famous Western film High Noon, and also featuring the return of a someone to a small town, the Sheriff and others fearful of him. Instead of a pistols at noon being at stake, though, it’s a game of chess. Otherwise Jason pastiches the Western clichés perfectly, also featuring a fearful Sheriff in which the town has little faith, needing to be coached for a forthcoming showdown. It’s masterfully constructed, with awkward, stilted dialogue and the meaning as much in what isn’t being said as what is, as Jason whimsically throws in trappings from all eras despite the Western premise. The lack of expression about Jason’s characters has something of Buster Keaton about it, upsetting and even tragic events accepted with stoicism.
Keaton also comes to mind for the largely silent, but dark comedy of ‘&’, combining a man desperate to find money for a life saving operation and another whose marriage proposal has been rejected. This is slapstick cartoon laughter in which Jason sets up one ludicrous scenario after another, the timescales deliberately confused to set up an almost Hitchcockian ending.
Juxtaposition is key to ‘Early Film Noir’, in which people with simple responses and dressed as cavemen live in modern houses. It’s a shallow piece, amusing without having any deep point to make beyond everything leading to a parody ending. Contrast that with the rumbling and disturbing undercurrent to the opening ‘Emily Says Hello’. This is dark, a story that could be reinterpreted word for word by an artist whose medium isn’t stiff humanoid animals for a chilling horror piece about two different types of obsession. After a killing the assassin reports back to Emily with a detailed explanation and an audio recording of the deed. She provides an escalating series of personal payments, while he discovers distance isn’t enough. It resonates through the funnier and simpler material that follows.
‘You Are Here’ concerns alien abduction, with a side dish of obsession. It’s a Jason special, the type of outpouring to have converted fans rhapsodising about the minimalist interpretation of deep dramatic moments, yet it could equally generate a “meh” response. Guilt and alienation are to the fore as it skips through time for a very satisfying reconciliation, yet it’s simultaneously silly.
A further unifying factor is that all five stories are influenced by the type of films either common to or emerging in the 1950s. It’s most obvious in the title piece, while ‘Early Film Noir’ nods to its influence in the title, but we also have wacky science fiction, screwball comedy and dark crime. This is just a starting point, though, and it’s the emotional undercurrent that’s the greatest strength. Before Low Moon Fantagraphics published Jason’s short stories as individual graphic novels, and the combination here showcases his virtuoso variety to great effect. The chocolate box selection would remain the publication method of choice.