Matt vs. Essex County: Some thoughts
I thought I was going to go to bed before midnight tonight. I’ve been a bit busy and sleep-deprived for the past couple days; this makes me question my decision to sit and read Jeff Lemire‘s Essex County all in one sitting. I have no regrets: instead, I’m wondering why it’s taken so long for me to get around to it.
Essex County is the story of a number of different characters who have their roots planted in Essex County, Ontario. It’s a story told with a boatload of flashbacks and interwoven narratives, none of which are stifling or excessive. Everything… fits. Details aren’t frivolous, nor are the panels cramped with expository text. Even the ending “bonus” content that doesn’t seem part of the over-arching narrative serves to enhance the setting and support the stories that come after it. What seems like a bitter and cold landscape at the beginning of the story is shown to have its own character and history; the county itself is as much of a character as the people who inhabit it.
Hockey plays a large part in the story, and the end of the Chapter 1 has a nice quote about how the sport helps Canadians, otherwise living in a harsh environment, feel alive. I kind of agree with this on principle: I’ve regained my love of skating this winter through a pair of new skates, and there’s something about whipping around an empty rink that’s very therapeutic.
I guess Essex County hits home because it’s about a bunch of people who have made mistakes in their lives but do not let those mistakes rule them. They contemplate, reminisce, grow and eventually move on – even if it’s painful. It’s a great story about personal gain and loss, and appreciating the people around you. I heartily recommend it.