Jeff Lemire’s talent boggles the mind. Over the span of a few years, Lemire has gone from an indie darling to comic book superstar. With a host of creator-owned projects, graphic novels, and series with Marvel and DC, Lemire stands as one of the most prolific writers in the industry. In his original graphic novel, Frogcatchers, Lemire takes a break from superheroes and androids to tell a more intimate story of life, death, and the things we let go of along the way. Published by Gallery 13, The Frogcatchers is written and illustrated by Lemire.
A man wakes in an abandoned hotel. He knows nothing of how he arrived at the hotel or where the other guests have gone. All he knows is that he is tired and alone. The man wanders the hotel’s hallways aimlessly, finding only two things in his exploration. The first is a frog, nailed to a door. The second is a boy, who warns the man not to open the door, in fear of the ‘The Frog King’ who waits inside. What lies ahead for the man is uncertain. But with the boy at his side, he will find his way home.
There’s a good chance this book will break your heart. While promoted as a psychological thriller, Frogcatchers can better be seen as an intimate study of one man’s journey through the last moments of his life. The book’s pages are filled to the brim with fear and confusion as the man struggles to find his footing in the strange hotel. Yet those emotions don’t come from monsters at the window but from the very human fear of what comes after death.
Like much of Lemire’s work, Frogcatchers commits to its exploration of memory and the loneliness it breeds. But Lemire does so with tenderness. Through the man’s eyes, we move in and out time as he explores the memories that mark his life. As a result, scenes flow and morph, shifting from one period of his life to another with mercurial ease. When Frogcatchers breaks from the past to return to the Edgewater Hotel, it’s unclear whether the haunted hotel is an allegory, a dream, or a transcendental awakening. Whatever it is, Frogcatchers remains beautiful.
Oddly enough, Lemire’s rugged style unlocks Frogcatchers’ beauty. Lemire’s artwork steeps the book in melancholy, drawn with lightly applied lines set against harshly scribbled shadows. Lemire’s illustrates with rough edges, giving his figures a sketch-like muddledness. Look long enough at Frogcatchers’ scratchy lines and you get the impression the book was drawn in one mad rush. However, Lemire’s rough style masks the complexity of the book. Like many of Lemire’s comics, Frogcatchers has a tight word count with no narration. As a result, Lemire’s relies on his melancholy artwork for momentum. Frogcatchers scribbled style can seamlessly twist midpage, telling a heartfelt story with raw authenticity. Pages slip into one another as images morph from panel to panel, shifting with the tide. Overall, Frogcatchers stands as another must-read graphic novel from one of comics’ most daring creators.
Frogcatchers is available now wherever comic books are sold.
Lemire’s rugged style unlocks Frogcatchers’ beauty. Lemire’s artwork steeps the book in melancholy, drawn with lightly applied lines set against harshly scribbled shadows.