Jeff Lemire is a Canadian cartoonist whose Essex County trilogy is an absolute must read: It's a perceptive and moving window into a tiny, frigid town in Ontario populated by superhero-loving children and hockey-loving men.
With his newest, The Nobody, Lemire leaps from the local indie publishers at Top Shelf to DC's Vertigo imprint. The book is a contemporary riff on H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man: Here, a mysterious bandaged stranger, Griffen, takes up residence in a tiny tourist town—Large Mouth, "Home of the World's Biggest Bass." Griffen is, of course, invisible, thanks to an irreversible serum that is also eating away at his sanity, and his elaborate bandages promptly attract both the suspicion of the small, insular town and the interest of a curious teenager named Vickie.
As Lemire's three-color panels—black, white, and a chilly blue—follow the storyline laid out by Wells, it's hard to sustain interest in Griffen himself: He's a cipher, the cave wall on which the town's shadows are projected, but little more. As is abundantly demonstrated in Essex County, Lemire's real strength is in conveying the clumsiness of reserved but well-meaning men. Vickie's father looks as though he walked straight out of Essex County, down to his broad slab of a nose, and the relationship between he and Vickie is the emotional core of the book.
Top Shelf just released a hardcover Essex County collection—those interested in exploring this fast-rising cartoonist would be best served by starting there.