Saturday, 23 April 2011

Review - The Complete Essex County by Jeff Lemire

This book collects Jeff Lemire’s Essex County trilogy of graphic novels (Tales From The Farm, Ghost Stories, and The Country Nurse), as well as a couple of shorter stories (The Essex County Boxing Club and The Sad and Lonely Life of Eddie Elephant Ears), in one 500+ page volume. Lemire is probably best known as the creator of Sweet Tooth, the story of a young boy with antlers trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, which he is currently writing and drawing at Vertigo. He also writes Superboy for DC. But the Complete Essex County, published by Top Shelf, is altogether more down to earth.

In Tales From The Farm, a young boy goes to live with his uncle after the death of his mother and finds some degree of comfort in super-hero comics and his friendship with a brain-damaged ex-hockey player. In Ghost Stories – probably the best story in the book – two hockey-playing brothers fall out over a woman and are eventually reunited in old age. And the lonely Country Nurse looks out for all the residents of Essex County and links their stories together.

These touching stories show Lemire to be a very talented cartoonist and storyteller. I just love his artwork, especially his messy / inky inking style, and his cinematic pacing dragged me through this large book very quickly (I read the whole thing in three sittings). (Note: although I often complain about paying a lot for books and comics that I manage to read in no time at all, I do actually like books that read quickly, I just don’t like paying money for them) I find myself struggling a bit for things to say about this book now that I've finished it, and I felt the same way after I read the first volume of Sweet Tooth and The Nobody (Lemire's first Vertigo graphic novel), so I guess I wasn’t completely blown away by it. However, this was a very good book, I am full of admiration for Lemire’s storytelling skills, and I’m pretty sure it will reward further readings. I will certainly be buying volumes 2+ of Sweet Tooth at some point.

This has a recommended retail price of £22.50 / $29.95. I got my copy as a Christmas present and the person who bought it for me bought it new from eBay for about £20 (including postage), which was the best deal available online at the time. However, both Amazon and the Book Depository have it for around £15.25 at the moment - the Book Depository is a penny cheaper - which seems like a pretty good deal to me.

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