Low Moon

07/08/2009 4:00 AM |

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