Norwegian cartoonist Jason (John Arne Sæterøy) may be the foreign equivalent to Craig Thompson. Not because of similar story telling or similar art styles, but because both men can effectively make you feel like 200-500 pages is too short. Athos in America, the artists 17th translated collection, is a series of six short stories that spans approximately 200 pages. Ranging from crime tales, to love tales, and the bizarre, Jason's knack for exploring the human psyche and psychosis, with characters that lack the required genetic programming is stunning with every turn of the page.
It wasn't that long ago, 11 years in fact, when American's were first introduced to Jason's work. Now with the art of translation and demand, this work is becoming more readily available. A huge amount of credit has to go to Kim Thompson on this volume; his knack for translation doesn't lose any of the sentimentality in these stories and retains a lot more than the reader may initially realize.
The collection opens with a kidnapping tale - "The Smiling Horse" - and may be the collections least appealing story. However, for a work from Jason, that only bolsters the rest of the collection from the arms of mediocrity. In this tale, the kidnappers get a taste of their own medicine, and in his brilliance, Jason never reveals what the kidnapped party looks like. Neither does he reveal the party that get's even as well. With elements like that, the story retains more appeal than the reader may at first think.
The second story - "A Cat from Heaven" - see's Jason as the central character, and the portrayal that he paints is self-deprecating, but ultimately humbling. His misadventures in relationships and in dealing with fandom may hint to how many celebrities feel, as well as the author. His anthropomorphized animal characters, mostly birds, cats, and rabbits, serve as more than just a caricature of humanity, but rather as a vessel of pure human exploit, imagination, vice, and inhibition.
"The Brain That Wouldn't Virginia Wolf" may be the collections most heartbreaking tale. It's the story of a couple trying to put their relationship back together; well at least for the protagonist's wife, who is just a severed head. The lengths that her husband will go to are the purest examples of psychopathy that may have ever been presented on printed page. Despite it's stigma, it's quite a sweet tale, as is the next story proceeding it. "Tom Waits in America" has the Babel effect going on with it, connecting multiple story lines toward one climactic event, with unlikely results (This story is pure genius.).
Without giving too much away, or spoiling the whole collection for you, go out, buy it, consume it. For comics fans, and even lovers of short stories, this volume in Jason's long storied library is well worth the purchase. It serves as a great starting on point for Jason's work and it's genius is sure to stay with you on each read, and believe me, you'll keep coming back to it.