I can only imagine the heart, soul and passion associated with ice hockey within the inner core of most Canadians. So it was a real pleasure to read a quote inside the pages of Jeff Lemire’s comic book Essex County from academic writer and humorist Stephen Leacock (1869/1944). It gave me a sense of the attachment, devotion and importance the sport must have, opening up my mind and adding context to this most excellent read.
Hockey captures the essence of Canadian experience in the New World. In a land so inescapably and inhospitably cold, hockey is the chance of life, and an affirmation that despite the deathly chill of winter we are alive. Stephen Leacock
I’ve had a big love for comics for sometime now and where I do dip my toe into the superhero genre here and there, my main passion lies in the deep, moving and poignant novels. One author that effortlessly delivers that lump at the back of the throat or that tear slowly bubbling in the corner of your eye is Jeff Lemire. He can tap into feelings that just connect you so deeply with the characters portrayed on the paper, the minimal artwork and subtle words that express such uncontrollable love. Yeah most of the time they are heartbreaking, soul splitting stories of lost wandering broken people. But what Jeff Lemire is so clever at, is to show unbelievable, sometimes unbearable love and loss. There’s tenderness inside the deep and sorrowful, human emotions caught in a snapshot of a drawn wide open eye or a slightly downside smile. I don’t know how he does it but every single time he gets me.
Having a long weekend off work I sat myself in two key reading spots under a tree overlooking Brownsea Island one day and Canford Cliffs the other. Peaceful, sunny and beautiful I worked myself through the pages gazing up to admire the view and to ponder on the story.
Essex County follows the stories of a three families within the rural community of a fictional Ontario county. Interweaved tales of grief, secrets and tender love told over a hundred years. Bleak cold snow covers the landscapes, rusting tractors die in fields, as people remember or just fade away. The heart of the story is stuck together with watching, playing and living ice hockey, all whilst being watched over by a single black crow.
Originally a set of comics collected into three volumes starting in 2008, Vol 1: Tales From the Farm, Vol 2: Ghost Stories, Vol 3: The Country Nurse with a few short stories along the way. I picked up the collected novel edition which features are the above plus some neat bonus material. It’s a beautiful packaged book.
“This book is so haunting and beautiful and poetic and so all-round good that if you aren’t prepared to be swept away and dazzled and made to cry a bit, then you should put this down now and walk away” Jason Aaron
I’m slowly working my way through the Jeff Lemire bibliography and it’s all been nothing less than stunning so far. Be careful his short story Lost Dogs will break you, guaranteed. Sweet Tooth is my ultimate favourite and I have all 40 comics of that and it’s ridiculously epic. The Underwater Welder and Roughneck are incredible devastating deep moving stories. And I have a few collaborations to catch up on Descender with it’s fantastically devine artwork from Dustin Nguyen and a 3 part mini series with Scott Snyder called A.D After Death (which I’m still to read)
Any love for comics, graphic novels. Do you read Jeff Lemire’s work? Thanks for having a read. All the best Mikey Wolf.