BW, 68 pgs
$12.95 US / Higher in Canada
For me, age 10 was one of the hardest years of my life, and the remainder of childhood didn’t get much easier. It was fun, but not easy. We forget that kids can be dark, nasty, manipulative creatures. Refuge from that and the world of shitty parents, crazy puberty trips and general confusion comes from one’s best friend. Heather and I strung together our own world then stayed there until grade nine. Then something happened, high school probably, and we lost our connection. Hey, Wait…, by Norwegian cartoonist Jason, is one of the most moving novels, graphic or otherwise, I’ve read in recent memory. It deals with the bond between kids, and what happens when we lose that bond. And although childhood probably isn’t as great as we remember it, its loss is mourned, and it’s this sense of mourning that Jason brilliantly captures.
Part one of Hey, Wait… traces the friendship of Bjorn and Jon, two dogs in a world of storks, bears and fellow dogs, best friends who do everything together. We’re treated to short glimpses of their time together, stitched together in a non-linear sequence. They read comics, shoot pebbles at stilts (you’ll know what I mean when you read the book), and stare at nudie calendars. Occasionally surreal details pop up, creating a contained, scatty world only they share. It’s summer. The days can be shuffled like cards and it doesn’t make much of a difference. Bjorn wants to be a journalist. Jon wants to travel, wants to do anything but work in a factory. They still have a sense of possibility and control over what their lives might become. Then “it” happens, and they’re both fundamentally changed.
In a bold narrative leap, we’re introduced to part two, Jon’s adult life. Gone are the great bits of absurdity. We’re in “real” space now, with its isolation, mechanical repetition, and factory hum. There is barely any dialog in part two. We’re exposed to the silent spaces of Jon’s life, in all their harshness.
One of the more nasty scenes is a six-panel exchange between Jon and his girlfriend at dinner. It contains only one line, but that one line will make you question every relationship you’ve ever been in. Part two is some heavy stuff, but made palatable by Jason’s exquisite pacing. Like his drawing style, there are no frills to be found. His panels are flat, shadeless, with big blocks of black and white, reminiscent of graphic design. Which makes sense since Jason has his roots in that field. Although me and Heather’s parting wasn’t nearly as tragic as that in Hey, I could relate to the loss explored in the book. We all go through it. That’s one of the great things about Jason’s work. The book’s ending is one of the most beautiful, heart-breaking things I’ve read in ages. Hey, Wait… is a gorgeous work, and will probably become a classic. (Carrie-May Siggins)