Essex County Vol 1: Tales from the Farm (4 stars)

Jeff Lemire

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Essex County Vol 1: Tales from the Farm (Top Shelf)

FANTASY

Superman and flying saucers feature figuratively in Canadian cartoonist Jeff Lemire’s lovely low-key coming-of-age graphic novel. Set in a fictionalised version of the Ontario agricultural community in which the author grew up (here bearing a distinct resemblance to Smallville), the Man of Steel and the extraterrestrial invaders appear as figments of the imagination of ten-year-old orphan Lester, who’s staying on his uncle’s farm following the death of his mother. Between the care fostered by his bachelor uncle and the companionship offered by a local hulking but mentally impaired ex-hockey player, Lester emerges from the protective shell of his childhood fantasies.

Lemire’s distinctive artwork, loose but bold lines and great swathes of black and white space, illustrate in a highly evocative manner the alternately languid, bleak and energetic rural life as the story progresses through the four seasons of the year. It’s simple, poignant and nostalgic. We eagerly look forward to the second of a promised three volumes.

(Miles Fielder)

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