Werewolves of Montpellier

by ; Published by

Reviewed by 06-Nov-10

Another year, another slim Jason book. By rights, we should be tired of his shtick by now: poker-faced animal-humans go through the paces of a pulpy plot, with plenty of downtime for eccentric conversational digressions and an inescapable atmosphere of understated ennui.

Another year, another slim Jason book. By rights, we should be tired of his shtick by now: poker-faced animal-humans go through the paces of a pulpy plot, with plenty of downtime for eccentric conversational digressions and an inescapable atmosphere of understated ennui.

But the precise configurations of his characters’ relationships to one another and to the larger world is never quite the same from story to story. Even if they are essentially blanks, the control Jason has over his line and his pacing is so strong that the simplest throwaway panels (man interrupts a lesbian kiss on a balcony, apologizes) become giant reservoirs of meaning and subterannean emotion. We live in an overstated world; Jason’s refusal to spell anything out, or to allow his characters the luxury of cheap emotion, is a relief to step into for the twenty minutes it takes to read one of his books.

Werewolves of Montpellier is, as the title hints, a book with werewolves in it; and in Jason’s typically understated fashion, you have to look closely to see any difference between them and the regular animal-people. (Werewolves don’t wear shirts and have bigger hands and feet.) How they figure into the romantic and personal ennui of a Norwegian jewel thief in France, his friendship with a sensible lesbian across the hallway, and friendly arguments about classic cinema is best left for the reader to discover; as usual, it’s not the plot but the spare, economic depiction of moment-to-moment life that stays with you.

Jason is a Norwegian living in France; the Montpellier of the title is his adopted home. This biographical trivia might suggest that this is his most personal work yet, but if it is, it’s only in the sense that his personal vision of comics is running on all cylinders here; while nothing he’s put out (in English, anyway) has been bad, he’s continually refining his sensibility, and this is Jason at his most Jason. The only way to get any closer would be to read his blog.

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