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Pocket Full of Rain
posted June 17, 2008
 

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Creator: Jason
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, softcover, 184 pages, June 2008, $19.99
Ordering Numbers: 9781560979340 (ISBN13)

imageHas there been a cartoonist in the modern age that's snuck up on us exactly like Jason has the last few years? We may come to feel that way in a few years time about Richard Thompson, but until then Jason is the flower that's come to full bloom right underneath our noses. Usually when a cartoonist goes unnoticed there's an appreciation that suddenly comes for their craft chops and the consistency of approach; the overall evaluation of the artist's individual works tends to remain pretty much unchanged. In Jason's case, it's been more a matter of his first North American and most obviously literary work, Hey, Wait... masking through its yet-to-be-matched poignancy the profound humor and lucid cartooning to be found in any one of his consistently solid follow-up books. All of the sudden, there he is in front of us, closing in on double figures in terms of valuable works, boasting an increasing number of devoted fans and responsible for giving us a way of seeing the world that's as powerful and fully realized as any cartoonist of his generation.

Pocket Full Of Rain cements the cartoonist's status. That's a surprise, too. A collection of early works including several using human rather than anthropomorphic characters, Jason's latest is the kind of thing that usually arrives as a curiosity for longtime fans. A bonus work. There's that element to Pocket Full Of Rain; it's fun to watch Jason rifle through a number of his influences, play with styles that you see in his later works (the comic timing, references to literary figures and expressionless character moments) and styles that you don't (the flights of metaphorical fantasy that enrich several moments of the title story). The difference is that unlike similar volumes from other artists, the vast majority of stories in Pocket Full of Rain prove to be astonishingly good. It's like watching a must-see audition video of an actor ready to break out or hearing the four-track tapes from a pop singer with a stunning voice; it sort of feels not fair. I'd say that there's a punchline involving a hero's parade that's worth the price of the book all by itself, but there's no need to say something like that when almost everything in a book is worth reading. Jason's even skilled at a kind of "Twilight Zone" sudden-blackout storytelling mode that acting as artistic career counselor one would likely never suggest he take up. There are a few forgettable stories, but even most of those are charming. Pocket Full of Rain isn't just a curiosity but an addition to Jason's steadily growing pantheon of solid work, and the best thing I can say about it is that you can recommend the book without any kind of explanation beyond that it's awfully good.

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