I’d rather have Thanksgiving with my family …
Jeff Lemire, “Royal City, Vol. 1, Next of Kin”
I know it sounds harsh, but sometimes family is hard to deal with. Whether it’s age-old festering wounds or new nicks that have just formed from stinging barbs thrown your way around the table, the holidays are hard to maneuver.
For myself, marriage and children have only made things harder to make ends meet.
That being said, I’ve reviewed Jeff Lemire’s work lately in this column with After Death, so this happens to be the Year of Lemire. Maybe we can get some family members to pony up some more of his work that’ll likely be on my Christmas list. Wouldn’t that be a corker.
As good as the work is, it’s all about the character. The Pike family have redeeming qualities, but they’re deep down. You can see flashes of them, but they’re blocked off by something the others can’t see. Each has their own ghosts they’re dealing with.
The youngest Pike has died (we don’t yet know how) and the rest of the family has had a hard time coping with it — think twenty plus years holding this kid in your heart. What makes it interesting is that each family member has a different vision of what Tommy looks like, and it’s not just how he left. There are past remembrances of him, but also what he could have looked like if he’d still be around.
But around he is. Just as this family hasn’t moved on from Tommy’s death, Tommy hasn’t moved on, either.
He’s there in each and every decision that each and every family member makes. And there’s some big stuff coming down the pipes.
Maybe it’s the simplistic storytelling style that I seem to resonate so well with Lemire’s work. There’s an existentialism at work here that I grasp onto (mainly about aging) that rings deep in the hollows of my heart. I feel what he’s saying because I know it to be true.
It could be the subtlety of his art. It’s good, but it’s not polished. This isn’t superhero fare, so there’s none of the flash and tights and chiseled bodies that come with it. It’s rough, but right where it needs to be. And his panelling is top-notch.
There’s also the addition of Lemire’s little blurbs at the end of each issue.
The first issue gets a nice little essay about the book (which Lemire hates, but I love) and where he’s coming from when he’s writing it. There’s also a neat little Spotify playlist that doesn’t necessarily tie directly to the issue at hand, but it’s neat to see what a writer/artist is into while he works.
The first arc of issues 1-5 have been collected in the first trade from Image Comics. It’s entitled “Next of Kin” and can be grabbed from your local comic shop. Issue 6 is out now, with issue 7 due on stands Friday.
“The Oracular Beard,” aka Jared A. Conti, resides in the upper echelon of nerd-dom, meditating on comics and the like for sustenance.
He currently is at work on a post-apocalyptic young adult novel series set in central Pennsylvania, as well as a superhero short story collection.
His alter-ego is a barista at Avenue 209 Coffee House in Lock Haven.
“The Oracular Beard … So you wanna be a comic book nerd” typically runs the first Thursday of each month in the Showcase.