The library is a great place for readers to discover comics, and it’s a great place for comics readers to check out things that they want to try without spending their hard-earned cash. I’m looking at comics that I find in the New York Public Library system.
After talking about Jeff Lemire’s first Essex County trilogy book, Tales From the Farm, last week, today I’ll give a few thoughts on the middle segment of the inter-connected tales. Splitting pages between the modern day and the past, Ghost Stories uses Lou LeBeuf’s wandering, disassociating mind to draw connections between today and events of his family past. Retired, modern day Lou is a deaf old man struggling to hold onto his independence, arguing with his nurse and belligerently trying to remain in his home. In the past, Lou and his younger brother Vince were young hockey players hoping to graduate from semi-professional status to NHL stardom, torn apart by family matters, differing priorities and lost in seas of solitude.
Far more assured and nuanced than the first chapter of the trilogy, Ghost Stories is easily the most gripping of the Essex books, and among my favorite comics ever. Lemire adds natural humor to the confusion of the elderly people in current-day Lou’s life, while he adeptly mixes the pastoral setting of Essex County against the urban crush of younger Lou’s life in Toronto. The hockey sequences are exciting (and I don’t like hockey), yet the emotional sequences are quietly brutal.
As this is a trilogy of books, Ghost Stories ties back to Tales From the Farm, though Lemire doesn’t make the connection explicit until near the end, and even then he lets readers make the connection themselves. If you’ve not read Farm, there’s nothing in Ghost Stories that will leave you scratching your head. If you’ve read both, you’ll smile at the deeper understanding of Ken and Les you’ve gained by reading the lives of Lou and Vince.
Strong dialogue complemented by evocative, loose artwork brings the characters to life, each of them reminiscent of some you might’ve known. It’s powerful stuff, and if you find a copy in your local library, I’d strongly encourage you to check out Jeff Lemire’s Essex County vol. 2: Ghost Stories.