11.21.2005

Graphic Novel Of The Month

Why Are You Doing This? (Fantagraphics): I was pleasantly surprised to find another offering from this Norwegian powerhouse after thoroughly enjoying his works Tell Me Something and You Can't Get There From Here. The most controversial aspect of this book will probably be that it's his first major work released in the US in full color. Previous offerings have been either pure black and white, or B&W with some sparse magenta or sepia like colors and effects. I was actually worried that the color would detract from the emotive lines and subtle expressions that you're forced to focus on in Jason's work. Thankfully, my worries fled quickly after absorbing this book somewhere around the second page. The color adds a whole other dimension, a vibrant dynamic that lays right on top of the other strong elements.

As usual with Jason's work, there are two primary layers of story at work. Superficially, this is a straightforward and energetic tale about an artist who unknowingly witnesses a murder and then becomes involved in a frame-up for his best friend's murder which is initiated to cover up the first crime.

The subtext really has to do with interpersonal relationships and their motivations. The artist has relationships here with his friend, the woman who takes him in, her daughter, the killer, the police, etc. and they all have their own motivational backing, necessity, dynamic, and outcome. The question Jason ultimately poses with this project is what defines our existence? There is a basic struggle; two competing paradigms. A series of emotional bonds and truly connecting with people on some level vs. traveling through life simply acquiring interesting anecdotal tales to tell. How do you lead your life? Why Are You Doing This? Buy it today. Grade A+.

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