It’s time for another round of some of the best dry wit/deadpan comics you’ll ever read in this latest offering by Norwegian comic creator Jason, published by Fantagraphics. The artist takes a meditative walk along the picturesque Wicklow Way in the Irish countryside, where he encounters a whole lotta sheep. A paean to the life of the inimitable L. Cohen, with a few liberties taken. Two private detectives tailing a seemingly ordinary couple soon find themselves caught up in their own personal dramas. And, gee willikers, it’s love at first sight in the whirlwind romance of Bo and Jo — Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine Baker, that is!
Since making his English language debut in 2001, Jason has established himself as one of the top talents working in European comics having sold over 50,000 books in the US alone and built a substantial following amongst English speaking readers. He also has several major comic awards to his name including two Eisner Awards for The Left Bank Gang and I Killed Adolf Hitler. In these past works, he established a very successful style which took advantage of his deadpan sense of humour and minimalist approach to artwork. Anyone who has read Jason’s previous work will have a good idea with what to expect in O Josephine.
His minimalist style, packed with subtle storytelling and a healthy level of dry wit that avoids getting too cynical in a mean-spirited way is on full display here. The opening story focusing on Jason’s journey along Wicklow Way in Ireland in particular acts as a travel log whilst poking fun at hiking, locals and the countryside in general. Hiking obviously has its appeal, but it’s hard not to snigger as Jason greets all these memorable sights on the route with the same blank indifference (both St. Kevin’s Cross or The Poulanaass Waterfall are just stops on the way). It appears to be the route sign posts that mean the most to him as the stick man depicted on them becomes an old friend. Hostels are also a fun target as he teases the apparent banality of what’s on offer and the people who stay there.
The art style continues to be one of Jason’s main strengths with both his loose examination of Leonard Cohen’s life and his fictional romance between Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine Baker presenting often absurd situations that at the same time come across as mundane and pedestrian thanks to his deadpan style. Both a robbery and death scene press the expected buttons, but at the same time – Jason’s disinterested characters appear to just be along for the ride.
This is another great addition to Jason’s body of work and is packed with all the subtlety and dry wit you’d expect. It’s easy to see why he continues to be a top name in the independent comics’ scene.
O Josephine! is published by Fantagraphics on 13 June (9781683962106, h/b, £21.99)
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