Review: Werewolves of Montpellier

As my first Jason work, I’m uninformed as to whether there is a greater connection with this piece and others, or if they all operate as standalone pieces. I have, however, been aware of the Norwegian artist’s comics for quite some time – an author who writes short, pungent works, that focus on building experiences within limited worlds. Werewolves of Montpellier was initially purchased because of its setting. The city in southern France is a place of great fondness to me, and as a result, tipped the scales on a story that had already piqued my interest. However, the setting, despite its significance to me, played a minimal role in my experience. But what did touch me is hard to describe, something that slips through my fingers every time I try to grasp it. 

The story follows the drifting artist Sven, who finds himself on France’s southern coast on the whim of an unlikely romantic pursuit, while doubling as a raiding werewolf at night. However, his exploits arouse an ancient community based in Montpellier, leading a seemingly monotonous life into a wider conspiracy.  

Working with engaging colours scapes, usually containing dull colours and a single focal point, the reader, for the most part, forgets there is a lot of empty space within Jason’s illustrations. Most panels are quite sparse, even scenes that establish setting. As a result, I believe this work in particular is more about feeling than tangible environments. I didn’t find myself lost in an incredibly rich rendition of Montpellier. Instead, the story is dictated by the mood that Jason creates, which he does through his use of colour. 

The simplicity of his illustrations leaves the immersion at bay of colour-induced atmosphere, and dialogue, which is also quite limited. It’s in silent montages where many important developments take place. The dialogues that are sprinkled in usually take the form of smalltalk, and little information is given to the reader upfront. We must watch, and listen intently, because listening allows for subtleties within the story to be uncovered. 

We’re given a new way at describing the drifting sensation of young adulthood, and the frustrations of unrequited love (taking the form of robbing local residents). The awkwardness of many scenes often contrast the severity of Montpellier’s underworld, highlighting a dichotomy between the muted presence of characters outwardly, and their internalised feelings. 

Jason was also able to make his piece’s scarcity stand out through excellent angling. Switching between 2D and more complex positioning, we are able to see the skills of the artist without needless flexing, which would contrast the aesthetic of the piece. 

For all intents and purposes, there isn’t too much, outright, to say about this piece. It is short, sparse, and lacking in a true narrative until a considerable way through. But through short vignettes, little mundanities and excellent paneling, I can’t help but find myself writing about this piece. The term “old soul” best describes my feeling for this work. I feel as though a lived experience led to this creation (not just naive storytelling), and there is great profundity in tracking through it. 

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