Jeff Lemire has done something really unique. He has become a superstar creator at the Big Two, DC and Marvel, while also building up a huge list of incredible creator owned work. His indie comics are really what stand out, often focusing on themes of family, fatherhood, loneliness, and community, and when he does both story and art you get something really interesting as his work is so clearly identifiable. As a superhero creator, he again brings his A-game and gives you the type of storytelling and characterization that is sorely lacking from most of these modern myths. With Jeff Lemire helming the new Hawkeye, as announced in the recent reveal of 45 new Marvel titles, we have decided to compile the top five Lemire books that are absolute must reads!
In a way, this graphic novel from Vertigo is the most quintessential Jefff Lemire books on the list. Driving home a science fiction story where the functional elements really only give way to a tale about alienation, loneliness, and family, the story follows a welder as he discovers how easy it is to disappear from the life he has a tenuous grasp. Like much of Lemire’s solo work, it is both written and drawn by him and tells the kind of entrancing story that you can suddenly find yourself deep in, and where the story resonates far past the pages. We want to avoid some of the major plot points of the book, but suffice it to say that our central character is forced to reflect on their own life as a father, something Lemire seems perfectly comfortable writing.
This might be cheating a little bit since it was originally three books, but now that Top Shelf has collected it into a single volume we feel like we are being given a chance. Essex County is one of the most profound works of alternative comics created in the last ten years. Focusing on small-town Canadian life and the individuals who inhabit it and have change forced on them, this books is made up of the small moments between characters that can change a life. This will be familiar to a lot of readers because it captures this kind of rural living incredibly well, and it is one where we see the most stripped down examples of the kinds of character conflicts that are ever present in his work.
This recent miniseries from Vertigo played with the design of the comics themselves as the story of two characters from different times was told from literally different ends of the book for the first issues. It went into a mind-bending story about characters using psychedelic plants to travel forwards and backwards through space and time, and where two people from very different places connect in an incredibly deep way. Both written and drawn by Jeff Lemire, this is one of the best science fiction comics in years and a highlight from recent Vertigo.
This is the most conventional superhero book on the list, which Lemire has written quite a number of. Animal Man is a difficult title to helm, especially in the toned down environment of the New 52 rather than Vertigo where it was most accustom. The series was really defined by the Grant Morrison run, and then taken into really strange and imaginative places by later writers like Peter Milligan. It was when Lemire was presented with doing Animal Man as a part of the regular DC universe again that he could have done a lot of things, but what he did was take the best elements of the past and do a veracious storyline that was just as frightening as the later horror issues at Vertigo. Following Buddy Baker as he connects with the Red against the opposing forces of the Rot, it really brought together both the heavy horror-center mythology that gave so much depth along with the really profound family aspects that Lemire is well at home with. This was the best comic from the first New 52 run, and, even now, it would be hard to find any DC book that was better than the five volumes he did with the character before moving him to Justice League United.
This is really Lemire’s magnum opus. Taking up both writing and artistry, this ongoing book from Vertigo tells the story of a boy born in the woods with antlers and his quest for family after his father dies. It goes on to be an incredible post-apocalyptic tale, one built on mythology and magic, and filled with adventure and heartbreaking emotional bonds. This is one of the real classics from Vertigo and you will find that it is really a masterwork in terms of visual stortelling. All the other elements that make his previous works so strong are here in full force. This is really the work that will always define Lemire, and that is something he should be happy about.
These are all incredible works on their own that should be considered, it was a tough list to pile through. So now we can have our cake and eat it to by pushing these additional titles once you get through your primary Jeff Lemire reading list!