Overview

Pocket Full of Rain and Other Stories

Review

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Pocket Full of Rain and Other Stories

Credits

  • Words: Jason
  • Art: Jason
  • Inks: Jason
  • Colors: Jason
  • Story Title: Various
  • Price: $19.99
  • Release Date: Jun 18, 2008

From the very first page, even before you get to the title, Jason sets the emotional tone of the entire book with a four panel script which is at once haunting and heartbreaking. It, as much of Jason’s work cuts to the essence of humanity. What are we here for? Why do we feel alone? What should we be searching for?

I first happened upon Jason two years ago. It was one of those moments when you are reading Previews that a spotlight seems to shine on a particular solicitation. The book was The Left Bank Gang. It was a simple story of a gang of bank robbers. However, the robbers were American Expatriates in Paris, you know, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and that sort. What was even more absurd is that all of the characters were anthropomorphic dogs and animals.

This book, Pocket Full of Rain, is an anthology of the Norwegian cartoonist’s journeyman work. It is peopled with humans and eventually, he assembles his cast of talking, bipedal animals. However, at the core of this book is Jason’s ability to use absurd premises to tell powerfully emotional stories of our condition as human beings.

The eponymous story is the centerpiece here. It is the tell of two lovers who despite the aliens committing robberies and a very dangerous ex-boyfriend find that they can overcome any obstacle through their love, but can their love overcome the darkness that will overtake a life on the run? It is a meditation on the nature of romantic evolvement from the meaninglessness of our own mundane existence to the quiet moments alone after copulation.

The characters are very similar to people you know. They debate pop culture, they worry about metaphysical concerns, and they have flights of fancy. They are all neurotic. There is definitely a bit of autobiography here, as Jason is a character in a couple of the shorter pieces and even admits to it in the annotations in the table of contents.

The stories cross every genre from homage to Spacehawk in “Spacecat” to the parody of X-Files entitled “X-pilt”. There are newspaper strips and Farside like one page comics. There are emotional dramas like "Pocket Full of Rain” and historical pieces like “Papa”. In all of them, Jason displays his ability to make the most basic of conversations or everyday occurrences compelling and meaningful. It is a masterful display from a young artist who has not even found his true voice yet.

Also on display here and even more prominent is the evolution of a style. From the earliest strips and pieces we see the lines and character design of the future graphic novels breaking through more popular styles. We see his first efforts with brush work. We see him copy more famous styles through references to the art of Mazzuccheli, Moebuis, Wolverton, and more. All the while starting to define his own and determinedly unique style. It is a pleasurable to look at as it is to see the master story teller creep out through the various genres and homages.

What is most impressive about his art whether in these early pieces or in his most recent work, is his ability to convey emotional content in a static and otherwise featureless face. He can have an empty face on a character, but you will still feel the character’s pain, it can be heart wrenching and upon first glance there is nothing there to make you feel this. It is either some kind of optical illusion that I am too feeble minded to catch or there is something special in his combining of words and pictures that is beyond any artist I have ever witnessed. I like to think that it is the latter.

Pocket Full of Rain is a delight to those of us who have been following Jason’s career for a while, but it is also a welcome introduction for those who may have been put off by musket wielding crows and such on the covers of his graphic novels. It is also a dense and satisfying read which is the one criticism I often hear levied at his work. I’ve always thought that such an argument grew out of economics, but you certainly get your money’s worth with this volume.

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