Sunday, August 12, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: Lost Dogs

It’s a well-known fact around here that I’m a big fan of Jeff Lemire’s work.  I’m proud to say that, excluding his work for DC proper, I am the proud owner of all his works in comics.  (Keep an eye out for a review of Underwater Welder around these parts soon enough!) So when I caught wind of the fact that Top Shelf had plans to re-release his very first published work, Lost Dogs I was excited to own another piece of the Jeff Lemire comics pie. 

Lost Dogs, in its early stages, is the comic that won Lemire the Xeric grant, a reward that allowed him to complete Lost Dogs and thus begin what has become a successful career in comics.  However, there was a very limited amount of copies published in the initial go-around, so Lost Dogs been tough to come by for folks who are fans of Lemire.  Luckily, Top Shelf decided to republish this one, so no longer will I have to search the used book shelves for this gem. 

Lost Dogs is a story about a man, a massively huge man, who is a simple farmer, and loves his family.  While on a trip to the city for supplies and some sight-seeing, tragedy strikes and the man is forced to fight to prevent the loss of everything he has ever known and loved.  Lost Dogs is a tale that is raw emotions brought up from the depths of the human soul, laid out and exposed in a gritty, brutal display of untamed artistic talent. 

As you might imagine for any artist at the start of his or her career, Lemire’s artwork in Lost Dogs is much rougher and more disheveled looking than his most recent stuff. That’s not to say it isn’t good though because even though it might not look the prettiest, Lemire does a wonderful job of tapping into that fountain of basic human emotion and letting it run all over the pages in black ink.  Lemire’s brush strokes, which are chunkier than an NFL lineman, appear sloppy or rushed at times, but the brush strokes seem to convey the amount of emotion Lemire was trying to pour onto the page. 

Like many of Lemire’s work in comics, Lost Dogs is a story that cuts deep and leaves its mark both mentally and emotionally.  Story-wise, this is a tale that lacks the polish of his later works, but still delivers a story that pulls no punches.  This is a straight forward tale with little in the way of tricks, twists or feints. Instead Lemire chooses to batter the reader over the head with his heart-breaking tale of loss and loneliness.  Sure, this one is uncivilized, a bit wild and only just barely presentable, but all that seems to give the story the emotional kick it needs. 

Lost Dogs might be lacking the refinement of Lemire’s later work both in terms of art and story, but it is cool to see where it all came from and catch a glimpse into an artist’s past to see how that work sparked the work of today.  For fans of Jeff Lemire, this one is a must have.  If you are looking for a no holds barred work of raw emotion, then this is a good place to start looking.  Not the prettiest, or the cleanest, but still, a winner in the end. 

Grade: B

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