Sunday Book Review: Tales From the Farm

Like many Torontonians, graphic novelist Jeff Lemire is originally from a small town. While his Xeric Award winning book "Lost Dogs" presented rural life as an idyllic counterpoint to urban danger, "Tales From the Farm" deals with the reasons so many come to Toronto. That is, alienation.

But the main characters do not escape into the big city. Lester, a 10-year-old orphan who lives with his uncle on a farm, is too young and his unlikely friend, former hockey player and current gas station owner, Jimmy Lebeuf, is too damaged. The story focuses on their strange, sometimes disturbing, relationship and on the world of fantasy both have constructed. It is into these fantasies that they retreat.

From the first page I was pulled into Jeff Lemire's distinct art and quiet story telling. This book plays to his strengths as an illustrator and writer. As he proved with "Lost Dogs", he has a talent for capturing the perspective of the outsider. In "Tales From the Farm" he provides us with an image of farm life as seen through the eyes of a young, cape-wearing misfit, who would rather be fighting aliens than doing his chores.

The book's best images are those where Lester's small frame is contrasted with the empty enormity of the country or with the hulking Jimmy Lebeuf. "Tales From the Farm" is startlingly effective at making the mundane appear indifferently hostile. Even so, the book remains fundamentally optimistic. After all, even under a big scary sky, it's nice to know that a little kid can wear a cape.

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