||[Mar. 9th, 2009|09:43 am]
100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)
#49 JAR OF FOOLS – Jason Lutes
(Drawn & Quarterly)
“You’re talkin’ over people’s heads here! You wanna distract ’em, not make ’em feel like rubes!”
In a magic trick the element of misdirection – the disarming patter, flashy gesticulations, fancy clothes and wide smile – are as important as the trick itself. In his tale of two low-life magicians and the down-and-outs they associate with, Jason Lutes gets by without anything up his sleeves, telling his story in the most straightforward way possible.
The viewpoint spends most of its time steadily hovering at head height, only occasionally flicking up or down or into the distance. The progression of time is staid, the events of the story taking place over only a few days. The backgrounds mirror the tone of events, Seattle rain a dreary constant, buildings as beat-up and broke-down as the characters around them and omnipresent telephone wires wrapping the city up like a cage. The conversations are brief. Even the dream sequences and memories are clearly delineated, the panels becoming round-edged before giving way to the harsh, square corners of reality when they end.
Ernie Weiss is an alcoholic magician reduced to fumbling his way through children’s parties, haunted by the loss of his girlfriend and the death of his brother, an escape artist whose demise during a performance may either have been an accident or the ultimate escape. Ernie’s former mentor, Al ‘The Great’ Flosso, is going senile but still remembers enough of his trade to pick the locks and escape from care so he can live with the younger magician, surrounded by his memories of the past as if it never ended. As Ernie tries to solve the unsolvable mystery of his brother’s death while his life crumbles around him, he’s joined by another loser and his dependant, a con man named Nathan Lender and his daughter. Both Ernie and Nathan are trying to do right by the people they’re stuck looking after and both are screwing up royally, scraping by using their hucksterish skill at disingenuity but mostly only able to fool themselves. They’re so distracted by their absent loved ones that they’re pulling a vanishing act on the ones that are still present. Jar Of Fools is simple because there’s no need for heartbreak to be complicated, no trick to making it affect us.