Miscellanea and Ephemeron
01/05/2008 Archived Entry: "Graphic novel: Essex County: Ghost Stories"
Review by Chad Denton
In a strange way, "Essex County: Ghost Stories" reminded me of a very different yet somewhat similar work, David Lynch's perennial film, "Eraserhead." Both are stories where an individual's emotional isolation is reflected in the physical isolation imposed by the landscape. In Lynch's vision, that abyss exists just beneath the industrial wasteland of Philadelphia. For Jeff Lemire, the void his protagonist, an elderly deaf man named Lou, inhabits is the open spaces of rural southern Ontario, which is a more than suitable subject for Lemire's sparse, subtle art.
Second in a loosely connected trilogy, "Essex County", "Ghost Stories" is about Lou, now unable to live on his own, whose vibrant past as an up-and-coming hockey player whose career was destroyed by a knee injury is intruding on his lonely present. Whether by his choice or not, Lou recalls the one mistake that led him to cut him off from his small family and caused his life to unravel – and how much responsibility he must shoulder for his own self-destruction. In short, "Ghost Stories" is a powerful work about regret, taking devastating advantage of the storytelling opportunities afforded by the comic book medium. Lemire offers one hope that one's alienation is never as complete as it seems and perhaps one really can go home again, at least in a figurative way, but it is fleeting and ambiguous. One might think from this description that "Ghost Stories" is an overdose of negativity, but that is hardly an accurate description Instead it is the story of a life that perhaps cuts too close for comfort. Here's hoping Lemire is one of the talents destined to finally bring about the long-predicted but never fulfilled ascension of the medium into a widely respected art form.
The Wapshott Press
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