Low Moon is a collection of five graphic short stories, each featuring a protagonist, and something that he or she wants. At the end, the protagonist has found a way, more often than not involving murder, to obtain that thing. And is decidedly not happier for it.
It isn't the threat of punitive action, or a badgering conscience that precludes happiness; the desired thing simply turns out not to be worth it. In fact, Low Moon tends to favor the losers, even when they are the murdered ones.
Jason is meticulous, laying out each story and panel so nakedly that at the beginning, every aberration seems to jump off the page. But anachronisms and irregularities begin to accrue, forcing the reader to constantly re-evaluate the rules of the world we have entered. This is most playful in the title story, which begins as a classic Western. A stranger steps off a steam train. He enters a dusty settler town. "He's back," say the residents. A duel is scheduled. It will have a winner and a loser. Everything will be hard-lined and definitive.
Except that it will be a chess match, not a shoot-out. Also, saloon fights are sparked by downing espresso, not whiskey. Two curmudgeonly deputies, reminiscent of the Muppets Statler and Waldorf, watch someone ride through town on a penny-farthing bicycle. "I miss horses," says one. We do not get to know why there are no horses. It is our responsibility to parse and infer, and Low Moon provides a lot of room to do so.
Jason seems to delight in building firm plots, only to swiftly tug them out of sync. The resulting offbeat dynamic is punctuated with deadpan verbal, narrative and graphic punch lines, which pin the stories down at the same time that they suggest grander meanings. "Where am I?" asks a prisoner. "I think I'll do some gardening," says a murdered man. "Which way?" a son asks his father in "You Are Here" — the heartrending emotional core of the collection — as they search for his mother on a barren planet. Each line and frame could mean nothing or could mean everything in this quiet, gripping book. Becky Ferreira