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Book Review < Back

The Iron Wagon

Credits: Written and Illustrated by Jason
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books


After an evening of courting the lovely Miss Hilde, Game Warden Blinde is found dead on a country road with a subtle smile on his face. A thorny detective named Krag is called from Kristiania and as he joins our nameless protagonist in investigating the murder, the sounds of a mythic, ghostly iron wagon rings out over the moors at night...

The casual reader may find something innately odd about Jason's THE IRON WAGON, an adaptation of a turn-of-the-century Norwegian murder mystery played out by anthropomorphic dogs, cats, and birds. This is most likely because THE IRON WAGON is an adaptation of a turn-of-the-century Norwegian murder mystery played out by anthropomorphic dogs, cats, and birds. And yet, in the hands of a cartoonist like Jason (he of Hey, Wait... and Sshhhh! fame), THE IRON WAGON takes great strides beyond its quainter trappings and finds its equilibrium struck between eras, becoming something classical that co-exists with something modern, transcending mere adaptation as it does.

Spending time with this odd little graphic novella reveals a work rife with layers and subtleties easy to miss with just a cursory investigation. Jason's art retains the kinda-cute, kinda-creepy styling of his earlier work; the addition of a red spot-color to his black and white cartooning gives an eerie gravity to the page. His layout, staging, and pacing enriches seamlessly the story itself, each panel adding more and more complexity and depth than one expects from an adaptation. Like Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli's woefully out-of-print adaptation of Paul Auster's City of Glass, Jason's THE IRON WAGON is a fascinating, unique hybrid work of literature and comics art.

-- Matt Fraction

Matt Fraction splits his time between motion graphics and design house MK12, writing comics, and reading comics. He is the author of the graphic novels The Annotated Mantooth and Last of the Independents, both available from AiT/Planet Lar. He can be found on the web at mattfraction.com. His wife is hot.


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