I’ve felt for some time now that Lemire is brilliant, and this graphic novel continues to confirm my feeling.
Roughneck is a bleak, sparse story with a taste of noir mixed in. In its relatively simple plot, it tackles themes of family, violence, and redemption – capturing moments of real tenderness amidst the harsh environment and rough characters.
The art style wasn’t always my favorite – particularly in portrayals of characters’ faces. However, the art is used to great effect in conveying and accentuating the story. The use of color is particularly engaging. And Lemire’s portrayal of even the sound of walking – a recurring element – is handled to great effect.
The sum total is a gripping story of family ties and the consequences of past decisions. On the edge of civilization, the characters are left to face their own darkness as well as the violence that surrounds them. And these characters are not only defined by their own choices, but by the heritage they carry with them. The question at the core of the story is about this very heritage. Must family legacy define the present? Is it possible to escape a cycle of violence and desperate survival?
Set against a stark winter landscape, Lemire’s Roughneck is a gritty thriller with an intensely human heart.