Review by Frank Plowright
Frogcatchers opens with a scene of a boy at a river catching frogs. To say much more about the actual plot isn’t advisable, as Jeff Lemire rapidly introduces his horrific opening surprise, not in the slasher or monster sense, but a very human experience of a life robbed. Anyone who’s read Lemire’s graphic novels beyond his DC superhero work will surely trust his creative imagination.
Lemire draws Frogcatchers as well, using his well considered scratchy style to create a profoundly disturbing experience set in locations that ought to be reassuringly banal. His people often have a blank look to them, drawn in Lemire’s sketchy way, using very few lines to great effect. It looks as if he draws the cast very rapidly, smudging effects with a grey watercolour wash, but there’s no lack of emotional empathy to them, eyes and eyebrows used to convey feelings. The sparing use of colour to signify a different tone is nicely handled as well.
It’ll be around halfway when it drops into place what’s going on, and it’s heartbreaking. In previous works, particularly his Essex County stories, Lemire has addressed associated topics, but never as directly. He cultivates an overwhelming sense of loss and regret, completely transforming what until then had been a surreal experience using horror tropes. The switch is magnificent, offers wise advice and will resonate with anyone beyond their teens.
While Lemire’s work is consistently praised, has won awards, and much is currently being developed for film and TV, there’s still little acknowledgement of his being one of the finest comic creators of his generation. He matches Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez in cultivating a deep emotional resonance to his material, and constantly surprises with where he takes it. Frogcatchers is another triumph.