May 14, 2009

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The Last Muskateer

Written by Jason
Illustrated by Jason
Fantagraphics

The more I read of Jason's work, the better I like it. Though I admit at times I miss his non-speaking work, his newer, scripted material is just as strong with the usual quirky, stiff anthropomorphic characters acting out a story here that combines science fiction, classic literature, and a feeling of loss at old values long since devalued in comics.

Jason grabs Athos from the Three Muskateers and uses him as his focal character, and at the start, it's exactly what you'd think a story like this might be. Athos is destitute, living off others and trying to pretend that his status has not changed. He's basically a raving drunk until a crisis hits his beloved France that stirs him into action. Athos looks to his friend and former companion for aid, but none is coming. He must face the foe alone.

That's where the book takes a turn into the world of H.G. Wells, as Athos finds the fight moving across space to a distant planet. Using his antiquated fighting skills and tactics to good use, Athos must save the earth from destruction all on his own. Meanwhile, not all the aliens want to rule the world, and Athos finds new allies in his quest for justice.

Can one man make a difference? In a more cynnical comic, the answer would probably be no. But in this throwback to when stories were less complicated, Jason uses the values of a pillar of literature to show that sometimes, telling a good story can be as simple as black and white. Athos brings the fight to the foe and and a stunning reveal leads to a swashbucking conclusion.

It's a great story, but Jason takes it one step further by including a coda of sorts that shows the title of the book may not refer to who you might think. The story's plot is a bit of a throwback, but in true modern storytelling style, Jason adds that extra bit to make the story more than it seems on the surface.

Jason's art style is not for everyone. He tends to draw static characters who, even in the action of a fight scene, look as though they have boards in their backs. It's as though his drawings were snapshots taken at the most awkward moments possible. I like the style, but it's definitely not for everyone.

One particular highlight of this book, however, is the coloring, by a "Hubert." His choices for background coloring fit the atmosphere of each page in a way that definitely drew my attention. A throne room is bright yellow, like the sun-god. A heroine's bedroom gets shaded pink. There's quite a bit of green for reasons that will make sense when you read the story. This is definitely a case where the colorist had quite a bit to do with the feel of the overall story.

Jason's a pretty prolific artist that even has a gig lined up with Marvel comics, of all places. Once you start reading "The Last Muskateer," I'm sure it won't be the last Jason book you try.