Thursday, July 30, 2015


Sshhhh! is a peculiar and fascinating look at love and life. It is a wordless graphic novel starring an anthropomorphic crow in ten different chapters that might be a continuous story or just random episodes that happen to be compiled here. These stories range from romantic interludes that can be rather mundane but also fantastic, as the couples are beset by villainous vultures, space aliens, and other interlopers.
Other episodes are more metaphysical, with the main character encountering personifications of death, the devil, and, in one instance, himself. The symbolic characteristics of these stories, which feature emotionless faces and characters devoid of affect, leave them widely open for interpretation. They are surreal, strange, and often disturbing, but they also sometimes resemble parables. Some of them are more substantive than others, but I think overall this book took me on a worthwhile roller-coaster ride of situations and emotions.
The prolific Jason is a Norwegian cartoonist who has won a number of awards, including the Inkpot, Harvey, Ignatz, and multiple Eisners. Among his many books are I Killed Hitler, Athos in America, Low Moon, Werewolves of Montpellier, and The Left Bank Gang. He speaks more about his various works in this interview.

The reviews I have read about this book have praised its craft if not always its content. Parabasis called it "a delightful examination of love and loneliness." Jason Michelitch wrote that "Jason’s formal inventiveness is clever and at times breathtakingly elegant, but the...stories presented here don’t have the substance that his style seems to demand." Christian Perring took a more philosophical view of the book and concluded, "As an unusual illustration of core existentialist themes – hell is other people, we live and die alone, the contemplation of suicide – SSHHHH! works remarkably well."

Sshhhh! was published in the US by Fantagraphics, and they have a preview and much more here. Because of its adult themes, some sexual scenes, and some violence, I suggest it for more mature readers.

Sshhhh! has also been adapted into a short film, which you can watch here.

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