Jeff Lemire’s first book in his three book trilogy, Tales From The Farm (Essex County), is one of the best comics I read last month. I waited a long time to buy it because my comic book store usually discounts only less recents comic books.
Lester, a young boy without a father, is taken in by his uncle Ken following his mother’s early death from cancer. At every attempt of contact from Ken, Lester retreats to his fantasy world of comic books: fighting aliens, building forts, and generally living in a make believe world. Both of their lives, although they share the same house, are spent in isolation and sadness, being affected by the death of a loved one in different ways. Even so, when Lester first reaches out for a father figure, he does not look to Ken, but to Jimmy Lebeuf, a one time professional hockey player who is now a gas attendant after a career ending injury.
The story is all set in a fictionalized version of Jeff Lemire’s hometown. The character of Lester is not directly based on the author’s childhood , but the themes are the same. Jeff Lemire grew up on a farm just like the character did, but was raised by parents. He added the death of character’s mother only to heighten the character’s isolation.
The flashbacks show Lester’s mother in the hospital and reveal the conflict between Ken who didn’t want to become a father and Lester who has been ripped from all he knows and thrust into life on a farm. Lemire doesn’t make any obvious judgments when it comes to the decisions that Lester makes about love and friendship. His narrative is more about Lester’s well being and self-discovery.
The artwork of Tales From the Farm is distinctive black and white. Jeff Lemire’s style is straightforward and stark.
A touching story about self-discovery, growing up and loss.