A man, albeit with a dog’s head, sits leaning on a chair in an office pouring himself a drink of what we imagine to be some hard liquor of one kind or another. He drinks, he checks his watch, he gets his coat. He raps on the desk of his secretary, an odd looking bird (in that she’s a bird, with an achy back and an Aunt May bun of grey hair) who greets him as Mr Delon, and tells her it’s time to go. Outside it’s raining. Our hero, for surely it is he, walks, barefoot (or should that be bare paw?), home (presumably) smoking a cigarette. Along the way he spots a notice for a lost cat and then, coincidence being what it is, the lost cat itself. Delon returns to the poster, calls up the cat’s owner and eventually takes the cat – who ‘may be a little wetter than a cat likes, but she seems fine otherwise’ – home. The interaction between Delon and the cat’s owner, Charlotte, then runs to about 50 pages, more or less the length of Jason’s previous books (Lost Cat is Jason’s first full length graphic novel, running to exactly 150 pages) and one of the best things Jason has ever done. Not that anything too revolutionary happens within the 50 page interaction. There are no zombies, no werewolves, no musketeers, no time travelling Nazi killers – nothing you might have come to expect from a Jason book. Instead, we get calm, beautifully observed interaction, the kind of detail you’d get in a Raymond Carver short story (and we know Jason is a Carver fan, one of the Rue’s his detective hero travels down is named after the writer). The leisurely way in which Charlotte and Dan Delon get to know each other is crucial to the rest of the book, however. Delon never sees her again and spends his life imagining the way in which they would grown closer as the years passed.
Which isn’t to say that Lost Cat is Jason taking a more literary turn. Or rather, it isn’t to say that Lost Cat is Jason writing an exclusively literary book. There are literary flourishes, no doubt. Far more breathing space than normal. And yet there is much here that is, delightfully, business as usual: Charlotte, for example, finds herself implicated in a plot involving aliens whose heads (or possibly tongues or antenna) appear whenever they think they are alone, communing with each other in some alien fashion. The climax of the book sees UFOs and gigantic robots playing merry havoc with Dan Delon’s city. But, as much pleasure as it is to see Jason fashioning gigantic robots and UFOs, the best scenes in Lost Cat involve small human failings (Delon’s disappointment, upon picking up a girl, to find that she isn’t into books; Charlotte having had an apartment full of books and a job running a boutique bookshop that Delon had, unbeknownst, a habit of frequenting), small human failings that play themselves out against a backdrop of conventional (in inverted commas) detective fare (in a compelling subplot – that could arguably have sustained a book in its own right – Delon is asked by an elderly gentleman called Dumont to track down a painting of one of his former loves, a woman with whom it did not work out but for whom he has long carried a torch – the resolution of this storyline is rendered wordlessly, two guys sitting on a pier smoking, and it’s stunningly good).
What shouldn’t come as a surprise to longtime readers of Jason (but still somehow does) is how much he manages to cram into 150 pages (there are terrific scenes, such as when Delon follows a cat, which he thinks might be Charlotte’s, on to a roof, or when he is beaten up by someone who does not want him to track down the painting, as well as the ongoing back and forth between Delon and his imagined Charlotte), as well as truly nuanced narrative development (Delon silently visits a comatose bird in hospital – we don’t find out who it is until the climax of the book but again, the telling detail gives us more insight into Delon). Was Charlotte’s disappearance part of an alien plan? Does she return at the end? Does Lost Cat have a sad or a happy ending? You may not be in a position to answer these questions at the end of the book (in point of fact you may want to go back, as readers of Jason are always tempted to do, and re-read the whole thing from start to finish to see what else you can glean). But what you will know is that Jason has fashioned another terrific read, that the increase in length has done nothing to lessen the enjoyment to be had in his books. Just about the only thing to temper the joy of the book is the news that Kim Thompson, who translated the book into English, passed away shortly before it was published.
Any Cop?: A new Jason is always a pleasure – a new graphic novel length Jason that is easily as good as his best work is even more of a pleasure than usual. Jason fans are in for a treat. Non Jason fans should hopefully be smelling the coffee and checking him out as a matter of no small urgency.