Brown: Lemire reaches new peak with Frogcatchers

Jeff Lemire’s Frogcatchers is a powerful book, albeit a short one.

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Jeff Lemire’s Frogcatchers is a powerful book, albeit a short one.

The Southwestern Ontario comic creator borrows a device from the little-seen 1990 film Jacob’s Ladder, which allows the central character to confront both his middle-aged and boyhood selves on the eve of his death.

The thing I love the most about this slender volume is how Lemire takes his time, patiently building a mood, panel by panel.

Everything about Frogcatchers is minimal. There’s little dialogue.

The story, such as it is, is minimal: A man wakes up in a hotel room and has no memory of how he got there. It’s kind of like the hotel room from the last 20 minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  He is soon pursued by frog-like men in black.

Aiding him to escape is . . . himself? Well, it’s a lad who looks an awful lot like him.

You may know Lemire, a Woodslee native, from such hefty tomes as 2011’s Essex County. Here, his powers as a writer and draftsperson are at their peak. He takes what could be one sequence out of a larger narrative and makes it stand on its own.

His scratchy drawing style suffuses the landscape of Frogcatchers with a bleak beauty. And you can feel his restraint, refusing to spoonfeed the reader.

Frogcatchers has a lot in common with Lemire’s The Underwater Welder, in which time also was a concern, and Lemire’s Trillium, in which time turns inside-out.

“You think you have all the time in the world. Like things will last forever. But it all goes so quickly,” the man, face-to-face with his own mortality, blurts.

Working in a deadline-driven industry, I’m sure Lemire knows all about the fleeting nature of the moment.