cover image If You Steal

If You Steal

Jason. Fantagraphics, $29.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-6069-9854-0

This collection of shorts by Ignatz Award%E2%80%93winning Norwegian cartoonist Jason (The Left Bank Gang) explores the existential ennui of theft and betrayal; alternate histories and conspiracies of the JFK assassination; and the ultimate masked Mexican wrestler adventure story. The art is bright and poppy, a pleasantly sweet-and-sour contrast to the inherently bleak world of the anthropomorphic animals who populate Jason's fables. Symbols, dreams, and fantasy flow in and out of one another, and if it seems clear where the story is going, simply turn the page to be pleasantly surprised by a zig where other cartoonists would zag. One glaring issue is that, with the exception of one Frida Kahlo%E2%80%93as-assassin story, the female characters in this collection are merely background characters to their fathers or lovers, or, in a misogynist take on Waiting for Godot that's so blatant it must be ironic, spoken of with vile disdain. Laden with skewed takes on pop culture, art history, and (often wry) moral lessons, these shorts are symbol-laden and fast moving, more like sequential poetry than sequential narrative.(Sept.)