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Roughneck: 08/08/17

Roughneck  by Jeff Lemire

Roughneck by Jeff Lemire is a graphic novel set during winter in a small, rural Canadian town. The main character is a former hockey star who now struggles with alcoholism and basic day to day living. He works a dead-end job and dreams about his glory days. All that changes, though, when his sister stumbles into town.

The sister has her own problems — drug addiction, an abusive boyfriend, and an unexpected (and perhaps, unwanted) pregnancy. She gives him a reason to rally and likewise, he gives her a reason to clean up her life and start making plans for the future beyond where her next score is coming from.

For the most part the illustrations are done in pen and ink with a watercolor wash. Most panels are black, white, and light blue or mint green. Warner colors are saved for moments of nostalgia or violence, making the blood all the more startling.

Top panel shows boots rendered in a monotone blue. Bottom panel shows a full color rendered ice skate and hockey stick
an example of color as nostalgia.

As with The Underwater Welder, Lemire uses the road narrative (or in this case, the road motifs, as he does most of his story telling through the visual arts) to convey the isolation the characters are feeling. The town is small; the road is small and long — hinting at how far away they must be from larger towns and the help they might need. A character going through a crisis or emotional turmoil is often shown alone on this long road, a miniature figure against the vast sky and snowbanks.

Vertical panel showing a winter night scene along a curving road with a woman walking along the edge.
The sister walking towards town.

Five stars

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