cover image Upside Dawn

Upside Dawn

Jason. Fantagraphics, $29.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-68396-652-4

This clever collection of absurdist shorts by Norwegian cartoonist Jason (The Left Bank Gang) features some of the Eisner Award winner’s zaniest conceits to date. Fueled by his usual preoccupations with modern literature, film noir, and EC Comics, Jason populates his pages with iconic literary figures and archetypes, all drawn as dogs, birds, and rabbits with human comportments, and dropped into situations far removed from their familiar environs. Athos encounters Ziggy Stardust. Ulysses becomes a heist caper. René Magritte and Marge Simpson figure into a single story. Highlights include “The Prisoner in the Castle,” a Kafkaesque suspense tale; “I Remember,” a cosmic Joe Brainard homage; and “The City of Light Forever,” a Star Trek extrapolation wherein Spock pursues painting in 1920s Paris. Tone and genre vary, but the plots (so to speak) almost uniformly involve terse, downcast protagonists, gruff pathos, and understated humor. Not every entry delivers on its premise, but the fanciful skits make for propulsive reading, and Jason’s subdued, boardinghouse take on Hergé’s clear-line illustration style is a reliable delight. A trove of audacious attempts—and a few misfires—this is a must for fans of Jason’s singular work, or for newcomers to his peculiar brilliance. (Nov.)