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Jeff Lemire’s first work Lost Dogs has been given new life. Originally self-published in 2005, Lost Dogs has long been out of print but the book has been re-lettered and now contains an introduction by Timothy Callahan and a preface by Lemire himself. The art itself remains the original stark images.
Jeff Lemire is a comics artist and writer. The author of the Essex County Trilogy, Sweet Tooth, and The Nobody, his most recent works have been with DC Comics. The story seems simple. A hulk of a man lives in the countryside with his wife and daughter. The opening panel shows a house on a hill and the man is plowing the field.
They have dinner together, even share it with the dog and at night they sleep on the wood floor, the wife and daughter curled up on the man. The dog lies by his feet and he envelops his family in his arms. In this frame, the heart of the story is evident. The man is disproportionately larger than his wife and child. He holds them, protects them, and watches over them.
The family takes a happy trip to the city. They watch a marionette show which mirrors life and the action of the story but while taking a stroll on the docks to grant his daughter’s wish to see the big ships, the family is attacked by thugs. The man is cut and tossed into the ocean while his daughter is killed and his wife is beaten and raped. But he does not die.
Rescued by fisherman he finds himself in a fight club and the marionette show is then used to parallel the attack on his family as well as the fight he must win in order to discover the whereabouts of his wife. The images are raw and stark, becoming even more so as the story moves along. The messy strokes and the rough-cut images work with the story.
The gentle giant is dressed in a red and white striped shirt and interestingly enough, the red of the shirt and the red of the blood remains the only visible color throughout, keeping the focus on the action. The chiseled face and hulking figure of the main character, oddly reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster, tells the story.
Never does the story become about revenge. The focus remains on the man and how much his family means to him. The big questions are left to the reader. The rough images continue to work with the story and again the man wraps his arms around his wife, leaving three pages used to depict the emotion of the scene. The scene remains the same but the view is pulled back and the colors faded out.
The rough and raw images of ‘Lost Dogs’ are used to illustrate the roughness and rawness of humanity. Both the soft and the hard sides of life are depicted and in the end the reader is left pondering the important things in life.