Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason
I picked this up in the bookstore on 30th St. Station on a trip back up from Philadelphia. I was surprised at the availability of good comics there, but not so much by the 15-year-old screecher that rung me up. “Hitler?!?!? Yo that shit is fucked up!?!?” You are right, my boy, Hitler is indeed fucked up, but in this book, he is not really any more twisted as the hit man-hiring folks of Jason’s world.
In this case the world in an alternate present Berlin where people pay to bump off others for the slightest social misstep. It begins with the most delightfully nasty two pages, a reminder that though Jason’s characters are cat and dog people, they are imbued with the singular human perversity. The main character is one of this society’s contract killers and he’s good at his job. In a surprising and subtle emotional moment for this surreal noir, the unnamed killer goes to a bar for a beer and is approached by a former client, a rather downtrodden dogman. After he introduces himself as a man who had his wife killed by our killer four years before, he launches into this:
“As for me, I got married to this other woman I’d been seeing. We’re very happy. Well, we were happy… Lately, it’s more like… We get up, we have breakfast, and I see this look in her eyes. I know what it means. I’ve seen it before.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know why I am telling you this. You just wanted to have your beer. I’m sorry.”
“I guess I’d better just go home, get it over with. Wish me luck.”
When our killer gets a contract to kill Hitler, he barely blinks. Then he gets into a time machine that looks like an old timey dive helmet and gets prepared to whack the Furher. After a failed attempt, things get temporally wacky. Jason handles this aspect of the story very well by giving a constriction to the time travel—the machine takes 50 years to charge. Hitler appears as an opportunistic scoundrel, not evil but merely there at the right time and place. The search for him frames what turns out to be a really sober, but intriguing story about the relationship between the killer and his bobbed ladyfriend from the first WTF pages, as well as a meditation on time. I am not usually all that keen to read such things, but Jason is that good. I should also mention that Kim Thompson’s translation is perfectly seamless and creates a mood that seems to be exactly what was intended.
Jason’s art is precise and evocative as usual, despite his characters only having empty spaces for eyes. I really enjoyed Hubert’s coloring; the matte, solid colors give the story a faded-slideshow effect that I loved.
The one flaw: it’s too short. Actually its not, but I tend to feel this way about all Jason’s book. Though all the novelettes I’ve read of his are perfectly edited, maintain perfect tension and fulfill their plots, there are always little avenues that I wish could be expanded to satisfy my curiosity. In this book, it’s the back-story of the time machine inventor and the details of the alternate Berlin pre- and post-Hitler’s murder. I hope that one day Jason lets one of his stories sprawl beyond its borders. I’d like to see what emerges from the sloppy edges.