Roughneck by Jeff Lemire

Derek Ouelette was an enforcer on the hockey ice. Pushed on by his domineering father, his job was to intimidate the other team, to win with his size and his fists. He was good enough to play professionally, until an incident on the rink ended his career. He is now back in his hometown. He sticks to a healthy routine of slinging food at a dinner, drinking and fighting at night, and sleeping it off in a small room above the local arena. His downward spiral is interrupted when his sister comes back into town. Hunted by her ex and strung out on drugs, saving her might be Derek’s only way to save himself.

Jolting and in your face, Roughneck is a graphic novel I will not soon forget. I first saw saw Lemire’s work in his book, Essex County and loved the raw humanity he writes about in that one. Roughneck has much the same tone and feel in the artwork. It features expressive, lined faces backed by one-color shading on most of the pages. But the jarring full-paged scenes are lit with bright-colored blood and action.

I appreciated the depth Lemire gives to the small-town family. A dysfunctional configuration of people who find some way to come together to help one another.

A harsh exterior, yet a heart that will make you feel. Roughneck is one to search out.

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