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Roughneck by Jeff Lemire
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Roughneck

by Jeff Lemire

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835213,438 (4.09)15

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If you were under the impression that life in northern Ontario could be a bit grim, then this graphic novel about the an ex-NHL half-native bruiser named Derek and his sister, Beth, will confirm your view. When Cochrane is “down south”, you know you are in the serious northern reaches of Ontario. Life is hard there. And it is made much harder by alcohol and drugs, pervasive racism, and the dreadful legacy of Canada’s residential school system that removed indigenous children from their native communities and forced them to attend schools (usually) far from their families. The latter is what happened to Derek and Beth’s mom and might explain how she ended up in an abusive marriage with an alcoholic non-native. But violence and abuse are never closed off; their effects persist and are passed on to the children and maybe even their children.

The graphic style is fluid and immediate, almost entirely in a monotone blue-grey. Colour is used sparingly. Panels are only fully coloured in flashback memories. And partially coloured during current violence. All, that is, except for the final full page which gets full colour but is set in the present and without violence — a hopeful ending.

If you aren’t familiar with the violence and brutishness of (some) real life, as opposed say to superhero comics, you may find this graphic novel difficult. It should be difficult. These are not pleasant matters. But Jeff Lemire handles the violence and the gritty reality with grace and sensitivity. Maybe the ending is too hopeful. Or maybe hopefulness is the best you can hope for.

Recommended. ( )
1 vote RandyMetcalfe | Sep 20, 2018 |
A nice effort, but not particularly original or substantial. Sad and broken people live sad and broken lives punctuated by occasional violence and depressing flashbacks. ( )
  villemezbrown | Jul 28, 2018 |
Derek a former star hockey player is as cold and hard as the Northern Canada landscape in which he lives. He spends his days at the bar and nights sleeping in the back room of the hockey rink. He bristles at each and every social foray -- even snarls at the local homeless dog. HIs world is black and white; his memories/dreams of his glory days as a hockey player are in color. When his latest bar fight lands him in jail, the sympathetic sheriff lets Derek cool his heels at a remote cabin. In the meantime, Derek's estranged sister Beth shows up with troubles of her own: an opioid addiction, a violent ex-, and an unplanned pregnancy. Violence and loneliness is followed by acceptance and redemption in this truly transformative book. Lemire is the reason graphic novels were made! ( )
  mjspear | May 10, 2018 |
Dark, stark, and brutal, Roughneck is the story of two siblings each fighting their own demons until the things that haunt them collide in a bloody confrontation that frees them both. Lemire's art perfectly complements the hardscabble beauty of his characters and the place in which they fight to eke out an existence. ( )
  BillieBook | Apr 1, 2018 |
My blog post about this book is at this link. ( )
  SuziQoregon | Jun 9, 2017 |
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"Derek Ouelette's glory days are behind him. His hockey career ended a decade earlier in a violent incident on ice, and since then he's been living off his reputation in the remote northern community where he grew up, drinking too much and fighting anyone who crosses him. But he never counts on his long-lost sister, Beth, showing up one day out of the blue, back in town and on the run from an abusive boyfriend. Looking to hide out for a while, the two siblings hunker down in a secluded hunting camp deep in the local woods. It is there that they attempt to find a way to reconnect with each other and the painful secrets of their past even as Beth's ex draws closer, threatening to pull both Derek and Beth back into a world of self-destruction that they are fighting tooth and nail to leave behind" --… (more)

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