The first Jeff Lemire comic book I read was The Nobody, the author’s masterful retelling (and reimagining) of H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man. That was a few years ago and I liked both his writing and his drawing style so much (as one reviewer of The Nobody put it, it is almost as if Lemire attacks every page with brush and ink) that I went online and read up all I could about him and his works. Most articles referred to one of his early self-published works called Lost Dogs that had since gone out of print (it dates back to 2005, so it’s not all that old).
I forgot all about Lost Dogs until last week, when I came across a piece about it being re-released in digital form by Top Shelf, the comic book publisher that has become popular as the last refuge of truly talented creators who want to remain independent and retail control over their work (some of Alan Moore’s recent work is published by the same company). I immediately did what I always do these days when I read about a new comic—tap the ComiXology app on my tablet to see if the book is available. I wasn’t sure Lost Dogs would be, but it was.
Incarnadine: Lemire’s palette for Lost Dogs only uses one colour, red.
Lost Dogs is the simple story of a very large man who lives in the country with his small-built wife and little girl (and a dog). One day, he takes his family to a nearby town to show them the sights; while there, the family is attacked. The man is wounded and thrown into the sea; his wife is raped and beaten; and his daughter is murdered. But the man isn’t dead and comes back in search of his wife.
I’ve avoided spoilers, but Lost Dogs isn’t a tale of retribution. Instead, it is a tragic story of a man, a large man who, by his own admission, is looked at as some sort of animal, but is desperately trying to retain his humanity and dignity even after losing everything that matters to him.
Lemire’s style, which he has retained through the years, is characterized by thick black lines—so thick that sometimes there are almost no outlines to images—and the sparing use of colour. In Lost Dogs, as poignant a tale as it is brutal and violent, the only colour he uses is red. The large man wears a striped red and white shirt. And blood, of course, is red.
R. Sukumar is editor, Mint.
Write to Sukumar at email@example.com