Lost Dogs

by Dave Morris on June 26, 2012

Before "Essex County", "The Nobody" and "Sweet Tooth", Jeff Lemire created a comic called "Lost Dogs".  It was his first professional work which he self-published in 2005, printing only 700 copies. 


He was a struggling artist, working the late shift as a line cook in a trendy Toronto restaurant. He applied for and won a Xeric Grant, which awards five thousand dollars to help with promotional and distribution costs for aspiring comic creators.  Lemire says in his introduction that the grant "was a huge moment for me personally and professionally. Someone else was saying 'You're good enough, and you're not wasting your time after all'". This gave him some money, but more importantly the confidence he needed to fully commit himself to his vision of making a career in the medium. 


Now, for the first time, Top Shelf Productions is reprinting "Lost Dogs".  


The story is divided into three chapters and runs about one hundred pages in length. The format is that of a "graphic novella", and is cut down a little in size from the standard dimensions used for most mainstream comics.  One minor and necessary change was made by having Chris Ross go back and redo the lettering to make it easier on the eyes. 


Lemire has painted the entire comic using only black, white and red; a color scheme that works in brutal harmony with the tragic and heartbreaking narrative. His thick and frantic brushwork adds a sense of dread and foreboding while random ink splatter reminds the reader that this is not a clean and orderly world, but one that is flecked with blood, grime and chaos. There is a powerful emotional resonance to be found at the story's core, especially for readers who are married and have children. It's a disturbing tale that will stick with you after you've put it down and there are a couple sequences in particular that hit heavily with raw feeling and expression.   


While "Lost Dogs" does a lot of things very well, it is clear that it is the work of a less experienced artist who is taking chances and searching for his own style. Mistakes are made, from awkward narrative choices to some sloppy and rushed page compositions.  Characters stand in a bizarre fashion and their proportions can look a bit strange and out of place.  The pace of the story will flow very nicely, only to suddenly lurch forward a bit uncomfortably.  But in the end these are minor complaints when held against the quality of the book as a whole.   


"Lost Dogs" is not merely a companion piece to Lemire's other work.  It stands on its own as a simple but powerful story that showcases a talented artist turning a corner in his career. Existing fans will enjoy seeing how his visual and narrative storytelling abilities have evolved over time, while new readers will be drawn in by his unique and expressive art style. For only $9.95 you can't go wrong.



Story & Art - Jeff Lemire

Design & Lettering - Chris Ross

Publisher - Top Shelf Productions 

Price - $9.95

Our Score:


A Look Inside


lucstclair's picture

Great review Dave. I'm a fan of Lemire's work, I'm right in the middle of reading Essex County and Sweet Tooth is one of my favourite Vertigo series right now. I'll eventually read this one too. Lemire's illustrations are odd, but with barely any details, he manages to display expressions on his character's faces on a emotional level that is ounstanding.