The thing I absolutely love about comic books is when creators will take a risk on telling a story. It may not be their best ever, it may not have huge sales potential even; but sometimes they’ll create a story that just needs to be told. Lost Dogs is Jeff Lemire at his best, telling a story that many in his mainstream fan base will probably over look; which is unfortunate considering its some of his best work. Some creators fit into the corporate comic structure; while others will produce some decent work, but they’re best will always be done without corporate approval. I’ll let you decide which Lemire is after reading the book for yourself.
The story opens with a giant of a man wearing a candy stripped shirt plowing a field. He’s ugly as sin and bigger than the horse that’s leading the plow; on top of that he’s mean looking as well. That is until his daughter calls for him and runs down from their house on top of a hill. Instantly his face changes to a gentle giant and we can see that he’s a loving father. He takes his daughter home where his wife is waiting for them with diner. As the family lays down for the night the daughter asks questions about their trip to the city planned for the next day before her mother tells her to go to sleep. We see our small family curled up in front of the fire lying on top of the slumbering giant as if he were their bed.
The next day in the city they take in a show, but the little girl is obsessed with seeing the large boats that dock there. Her parents agree to take her to the docks for a few moments before they head home which more than thrills her. The happy family stares out at the sea looking at the boats; that is until some unruly gentlemen come up from behind them. This happy family has apparently strolled into the wrong part of town and now these men intend to do harm to him and his family.
Without giving away too much I will say that this is probably one of the saddest stories I’ve ever read, but with every sad story comes a tale full of heart. At its core it could be classified as a simple, “Never judge a book” type of story, but that would be terribly simplistic for it. The story is grounded in reality and in a way shows that evil sometimes triumphs over good, but that good will always out last evil. Lemire keeps the dialog short and to the point, but it doesn’t control the story rather it supports it the way good dialog should.
The art drives the entire story. There are plenty of scenes that require no dialog at all to understand what’s happening and those are some of the hardest scenes to read emotionally. Lemire’s art style is at its ugliest with this book and it needs to be because this is an ugly story. Personally, I find the thick outlines and inconsistent features of the characters to give the book a human feel to it. Lemire may not have the prettiest pencils, but he is a well-crafted artist that does more to tell a story with his thick pen work than half of the comic industry will ever be able to do.
I don’t know if this book is an instant classic or will revolutionize comics in the years to come, but I do know that its popularity will continue to grow by word of mouth. I know that I will continue to highly recommend people read it and perhaps this review will convince several of you to check out one of the best graphic novels of the year.
Writer/Artist/Creator: Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Release Date: 7/3/12