source: Gallery 13

  • Roughneck by Jeff Lemire

A mere month ago I lauded a Jeff Lemire project on “The Week”, so I feel like I’m cheating a bit by mentioning him again. Truth be told, I’ve had Roughneck in my hands for awhile (since it was published in April), but I never felt I had an adequate excuse to sit down and read a big book like this––I had too much to do. With Independence Day falling in the middle of this week, I found myself with an entire day to just chill out and read. It’s nearly 300 pages, but it goes by fast––I read it in a sitting––due to Lemire’s cinematic storytelling and composition.

This cuts to the essential difference between graphic novels and prose novels. Reading Roughneck will take you a few hours and will feel like it, if faithfully translated, would take the length of a short film. A prose novel of a similar length could easily be a season of a tv show, in comparison. When relying on the blend of imagery and text, the amount of story you can tell gets squished down tremendously in a graphic novel. What could easily take a page––hell, a paragraph––in a prose novel could take up four or five pages in a comic. So, due to my literary background, I don’t deny that there is an inherent disappointment that comes with reading graphic novels––meaning long form comics released as a single volume (not just a collection of individual issues)––because their plot content is so much less than a traditional novel; however, what we gain from having visuals and the rhetorical tools graphic novelists have at their disposal yields a much different result than what a prose novel brings. A graphic novel begs you to really look at the images, study the faces, the changes from panel to panel––those were choices made by the author, notice them, come up with an understanding as to why those choices were made and how it aides the story being told. But, like any book, that’s only if you want to. There’s nothing wrong with just reading from cover to cover and saying, “That was fun!”

A comic about “gritty” subjects but told with gentle sincerity sums up Roughneck––and Lemire––in a nutshell. Source: Gallery 13. Click to enlarge.

Roughneck sits close to the other Lemire work I’ve mentioned, Royal City. Like the latter, it’s a family drama but much more focused and condensed. It’s a study of a character named Derek Ouellette, a retired professional hockey player who was pushed out for throwing a few too many punches on the ice. So, now, he just drinks, lives in a storage closet of an ice rink, and tries to be left alone. This all changes when his sister shows up one night, a sister he hasn’t seen in years, and she’s got her own problems to deal with.

This book kind of blends a few things I’ve talked about on The Week: obviously, it takes one part Royal City and blends it with a healthy dose of, believe it or not, The Last Alaskans (the show about people living in the Alaskan Wildlife Reserve. What’s nice to see is that Lemire’s also using a limited color palette in this book, relying on color for deliberate purposes and moments, something I related to quite a bit.

By the end, I found Roughneck to be very sincere and earnest, reminding me not only why I enjoy Lemire’s work, but also reminding me of the qualities I want my work to have as well.


It’s pronounced “Saw.” Source: Taurus Comics. Art by David Jaxon.

Local Sacramento creator, Kyrun Silva, is holding another Kickstarter to bring the second issue of his newest superhero series, Xob The The Lightning Wielder to life. The first issue was fully funded and turned out to be a really strong opening. It’s a superhero comic rooted in Hmong culture and mythology (Xob is the Hmong god of lightning). With his previous series, Shaman’s Destiny, Kyrun conducted the duties of both writer and artist; with Xob, he designed the characters, wrote the scripts, and got the phenomenal artist David Jaxon to draw it. It’s a sharp book and I’m a little jealous. Here is the pitch for the comic:

Xob the Lightning Wielder is an ongoing superhero series about Tracy Lor. Tracy has been infused with the power of the Hmong lightning deity, Xob. Given super human strength, flight and the ability to wield lightning into various forms.

Her world becomes more complicated when Danny, a shaman, tries to steal her powers. He attends to use her powers to stop Lord Eklips from escaping the Dark Realm and conquering our world. Now the two must work together to take down Eklips and his horde of dark demons.

I’ve known Kyrun for a few years now, even featuring a character of his on a Sketch Friday (in response to which he drew Long John), and he’s a genuinely inspiring creator. His enthusiasm for the medium is infectious and watching him get better and better from year to year is harrowing for me, a guy who admittedly doesn’t really push himself artistically too much.

Sketch of Kyrun Silva’s character, Xob, drawn at the TGPC Expo.

For $5, you get a physical copy of Xob #2 or digital copies of both #1 and #2 (there are two options at this level). This is, I believe, the third Kickstarter campaign after two successful runs, so you know Kyrun can deliver the goods in the end. At the very least, it’s a novel concept presented beautifully––and it’s really fun! I highly recommend giving this a chance:


Chapter 3 is updating smoothly and next week brings this first scene to a close. So, next week would be a wonderful time to start spreading the word since there will be about ten pages up for people to read instead of having to slog through a mere two pages a week.

I’m not working on Chapter 4 quite yet; there are some other small projects I’m going to dabble in just to get them out of my system and spread my wings a little. One of them, however, is Long John-related:

What could this be?!?

I’m not going to say what it is.