Out of curiosity, do any of our Blog@ readers here use their library to borrow comics from?
Because I love doing so. Sure, a big part is that I live in a metro-sized condo and have finite storage space, and I’m planning for a spring wedding and have a finite budget, but even without those limitations, there are a lot of books that I appreciate reading but simply won’t ever read again. So why bother keeping a copy, or using the resources to print and ship a book that’ll lie in a box or on a shelf, unread, for the rest of its existence?
Anyway, I was just wondering if anybody else enjoyed discovering comics for free like I do.
Now, as I said, I love being able to read comics that I don’t particularly want to keep or reread, but I do sometimes find at the library comics that I’d read again and again. Continuing my recent obsession with Norwegian cartoonist Jason, I borrowed Fantagraphics’ translation of The Iron Wagon. Based on Stein Riverton’s same-titled Norwegian mystery novel from 1909, Jason’s version is described as a loose adaptation. And it’s great.
The plot revolves around a writer tagging along with a detective to solve the mystery of the murder of an upper crust woman’s suitor in an idyllic rural community.
The tenor of the dialogue and the methodical pacing are evidence of the story’s early 20th century origins, yet Jason still makes the story entirely his own. As with other comics of his that I’ve read, Jason’s The Iron Wagon moves very quickly, remains slightly absurd in even the most dire of situations – largely due to Jason’s peculiar anthropomorphic characters and deadpan delivery – and simply doesn’t take itself so damn seriously.
The ending, though predictable on a plot level if you’ve read this type of story, achieves a wonderful absurdity due to Jason’s downbeat pacing. Jason’s comics are driven by plot, with character registering as an afterthought. By keeping the narratives short and the pace quick, with quiet, somber beats punctuating, Jason creates filled with eccentric worlds where anything goes. Even when he’s recreating a piece of period storytelling, his voice adds a freshness and lightness that makes even a haunting mystery tale seem entirely new and upbeat. In fact, there’s a downright comical element to the “haunting” scenes in this book.
All of which is to say that Jason’s The Iron Wagon is a rollicking good time, and exactly the sort of escapist adventure comics that I wish there were more of. I’m glad I can find them in the library, but Jason’s work is among the few borrowed comics that would’ve been worth the purchase price and required shelf space. It’s available at my library, and hopefully at yours too. If you haven’t read Jason, you really should check his work out.