Here's my video review and if you would rather just read my thoughts then please read the full review article below!
Get ready for a deeply personal and sentimental graphic novel when you pick up Jeff Lemire's latest book FROGCATCHERS. This book leads you on as a pictorial story and then abruptly changes into a journey that is not quite what you would expect. I knew absolutely nothing about Frogcatchers going into for my first read through. The book was sent to me by Simon and Schuster Canada and attached was a 1 page letter from Jeff Lemire about the books creation. I saved this letter until after I read the book. Otherwise, how might I go into this book and thinking what exactly? I wanted to go into the book without any expectations, or as little as I could possibly control as we all know I am a fan of Lemire's past work. That being said I certainly haven't read EVERYTHING he's done. When I did read the letter included with the book I was surprised to read that Jeff feels FROGCATCHERS marks the beginning of a new stage of work for him as a cartoonist. I have to say I agree and I think Scott MacLeod would as well.
The story starts out with what you would expect given the title. It quickly departs into a surreal quest the point of which is definitely lost on our main character. It's not too long before intrigue brings on nightmarish characters and the true reality of what is happening begins to be known to the reader. It all feels very mysterious for the larger part of the book.
So here's your spoiler warning: This is the story of a man's journey as he quite literally journey's within himself. We realize that our main character is actually a man dying in a hospital bed and everything he encounters appears to be a metaphor for obstacles and regrets from his life. At least that's my interpretation. What's interesting is that FROGCATCHERS manages to be a journey of reconcilliation within oneself rater than what you see of most soul searching type stories where often the focus is on religious and spiritual progression outside of ones own psyche. I really enjoy that this story refreshingly focuses on self reflection rather than forgiveness from a higher power for instance.
It's also interesting how the art changes throughout the book. Starting out as what feels very much like a sketchbook penciled comics, and truly even Lemire admits this how the book came together, that it poured out of him quickly. Color is reserved for end panels, everything feels extremely organic and fluid. This is the way you tell this type of story, with raw and simplistic organic mediums. With attention to what's happening in a panel and not overly detailed looking settings and characters.
Frogcatchers is one of the most touching, poignant and jarring stories. Through the main character, Jeff Lemire has crafted the perfect vessel for any reader to fit comfortably in. Through his eyes, the reader is forced to face the reality of our own mortality, and all the tribulations that go along with that such as the complexity of regret and the simplicity of mourning ones youth. This is the pen-ultimate of story telling, when you can slide into a character, and become that character without realizing it.
I've talked about this type of story telling in many other articles. The simplicity behind Lemire's character design is important for just how easily we can use that character as a representation of ourselves. His features and yes even the information we received about the character is generic enough to be the perfect vessel for any of us to inhabit to experience this story. Frogcatching itself, is a pretty relate-able childhood passtime and yes something I had spent hours and hours doing every summer with my sisters and a couple kids in the neighborhood. We had a great catch and release program.
You can get FROGCATCHERS right now on Amazon or from your local comic shop !