Written and Art by Jeff Lemire
Non-fiction has long been the realm of autobiographical tales. This is even true of graphic novels and comics. However, the mixture of fictional accounts of real life places is more rare. Interestingly enough, Jeff Lemire takes a route made famous by authors such as Stephen King and William Faulkner: fictional stories about real places. In Lemire’s case we get the second part of his Essex County trilogy, Ghost Stories, set in Ontario, Canada.
Essex County Vol. 2 Ghost Stories is the story of the two LeBeuf brothers, Lou and Vince. Both are minor league hockey players who leave the farm to play in Toronto. However, the rest of the graphic novel deals with relationships and isolation, in its many forms. Lemire gives us a story concerning how we deal with family, friends, and love.
Lemire does a good job of using time progression and flashback to portray his themes and plot of the story. The scenarios may seem foreign, since most of us do not understand Canadian farm life or minor league hockey, but the underlying themes are universal. We’ve all had strained relations with family, fallen in love with a girl we shouldn’t but want to, and felt like life is running away with us. Lemire gives us this in a way that relates to us on every level. There are good times and bad, interlaced with pain laughter and sadness.
No punches are pulled in this graphic novel. Lemire gives a rather depressing tale. Because of this, I had a hard time trying to find his thesis for the work. I’m still wondering why he wrote this fictional account of brothers in the 1950s. Nevertheless, the story is engaging and the feelings real. James Lemire is successful is making us feel for all of the characters involved. No one is perfect in this story, even the main character. Sadly, this is the case in real life too.
James Lemire’s art style is simple and black and white. I love that even though the images are black and white, these images convey much grey. The art makes the reader feel the emotions of the characters. In fact, I noticed the different characters by emotions from facial expressions easily. Even the smiles have hidden pain when necessary.
Lou’s senility is conveyed perfectly with panel form and word balloon usage. The use of font in the word balloons even works with the artwork. Many times, artwork that is simplistic is hard to follow, but not in this case. We get the highs and thrills of hockey and the distance of distraught brothers brought together with simple emotion, not high end artwork.
Overall ( Not an Average) 9/10
The Story 9/10
The Artwork 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10