01 February 2008

The Joys of Black and White

Essex County Volume 1: Tales from the Farm
Jeff Lemire

So I didn't necessarily like the story. I'm willing to reconsider, but that's where I stand for now. I did, however, like the art.

I love art that's highly detailed and richly colored, like anything by Michael Zulli--volume ten of Sandman is good for that. I like crazy Dave McKean-style collage-painting-cutup art like in Arkham Asylum, and I like things that are really cartoony. But sometimes I also just like straight black-and-white line art.

What I think is particularly interesting about Jeff Lemire's art is the intense high contrast he's got going. There are no in-between colours, just black and white. Things are shaded, but the shading doesn't vary. The only time we ever see gray is in flashbacks, which basically just substitute gray for black, and it's still always the same kind of gray. And then there's Lester's comic, which Jeff Lemire actually drew when he was nine. It's awkward, but still fairly confident for a nine-year-old. And it's so cute, too.

I also like the way he draws faces. They're very expressive, in a way that's interesting, because for the most part they don't actually move a lot. Jimmy, with his huge brick of a nose, is particularly fun to look at, because given that he used to be a hockey player, we know how it got that spread out. He's probably gotten it broken a lot. Kenny's face is also interesting, mainly because it has more lines than any other face in the comic book. He has super-lines.

Lester isn't actually much to look at without his little mask and cape. He's a fairly ordinary looking kid. Nose is a little pointier than normal, though. Jeff Lemire does a lot with noses.

Mainly I just really like the first three pages--not counting the "Summer" section page. They're very spare; the sky doesn't even have clouds. And I'm always a sucker for flight. It's also the only time when we really get to see all the buildings on the main farm compound, which I just like from a setting standpoint.

I don't know whether I'd necessarily read Essex County Volume 2. But I'd certainly like to see what it looks like.

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