TOP SHELF recently re-released a new edition of Jeff Lemire's Lost Dogs, the first book ever published by the Canadian cartoonist, who would go on to win awards and accolades for his great Essex County trilogy.

Lost Dogs was Lemire's first finished work—after, he explains in his introduction, multiple false starts on a "sci-fi/horror epic" called Soft Malleable Underbelly—and he's candid about its quality. "Boy, is it rough," he writes in the intro. "The art is blocky, messy, and unrefined. The characters are muddy and ugly. The storytelling is raw."

It is, in other words, very much an early effort, displaying nowhere near the mastery of visual storytelling evidenced in Essex County. It does, however, foreshadow that more sophisticated, more ambitious work, both stylistically and thematically. Lemire seems drawn to tell the stories of big, taciturn, wide-nosed men who work hard and do their best, only to find their best isn't good enough. Lost Dogs tells just that story: A large, quiet man brings his family to the city for a day, yet proves unable to defend the people he loves against the violence the city harbors.

Lemire's brutal, crudely drawn lines match the brutal, crudely drawn story—it's more a parable than anything else, with loosely sketched characters and a bloody, inevitable end. It's no masterpiece, but it foreshadows Lemire's later, better work strongly enough that fans of Essex County should find it worthwhile.