Upside Dawn

Fantagraphics. Nov. 2022. 256p. ISBN 9781683966524. $29.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS
This new collection finds Norwegian cartoonist Jason (Good Night, Hem) at his most playfully experimental. “Man, Woman” depicts a pair of hopelessly mismatched lonely hearts in increasingly incongruous styles, emphasizing their failure to connect over the course of a first date. “Vampyros Dyslexicos” and hardboiled noir riff “Perec, Pi” explore genre conventions by allowing much of the action to occur off-page, as indicated by panels depicting select moments from either tale. Several offerings reimagine literary works—“Ulysses” finds Leopold Bloom and a one-eyed assassin at odds over a floppy disk containing top-secret information; “The Prisoner in the Castle” follows Franz Kafka’s quest to discover who is responsible for his imprisonment in a sinister seaside village; and “Crime & Punishment” adapts the classic novel in the style of a true-crime documentary. Jason’s knack for moving between absurdity, deadpan humor, and melancholy are on full display in the standout “The City of Light, Eternity,” in which Star Trek’s Spock and Captain Kirk contemplate the meaning of life after time-traveling to 1920s Paris.
VERDICT Jason’s virtuosic storytelling and idiosyncratic perspective remain as compelling as ever in this essential new collection.
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