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Written and Illustrated by Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Gallery 13
Release date: September 24, 2019
Frogcatchers begins with an elderly man awakening after a dream in which he was a child again catching frogs in a pond near his home. Where he finds himself is a strange room with no memory of, well, anything save for that dream. He decides to venture out to find out what happened, where he is, and why. What he discovers is a room key identifying that he’s in an old hotel from which he seemingly cannot get out. When he calls out for help, a young boy shows up and quickly ushers him into the basement of the hotel in an attempt to escape from the Frog King and his agents who are out to get them.
Even more confused and desperate now, the man convinces the boy to let him use the key to open its assigned room in hopes of discovering a way out on the other side. Begrudgingly and under extreme duress, the boy relents. Thus their adventure continues.
I need to let you all know one thing… I am an unabashed Jeff Lemire fanboy. From Descender to Black Hammer and Gideon Falls to Old Man Logan and Underwater Welder to Royal City and oh-so-many others. I love his writing and I also like the occasional time here and there where he goes beyond writing and provides his own artwork. There’s a desperation to those illustrations that may only be possible when the artist and illustrator are one and the same.
What I’m trying to say is, when I found out about the release of Frogcatchers and was granted the opportunity to review it, I (heh heh) hopped all over it. Get it? Frogcatchers… hopped… I’ll see myself out.
Anyway, while what I said above may sound like the start of a horror film, perhaps one by Stephen King, that’s not what this is about at all. It’s an examination of a life. Of any life. Of your life. The person next to you. And it’s truly beautiful and heart-wrenching.
The first Jeff Lemire book I read that he both wrote and illustrated was Underwater Welder and this is a very similar story in terms of tone and emotion. Part of me wondered if they were supposed to be spiritually related, but really there is no way to determine that short of Lemire admitting it himself. In terms of this graphic novel, it’s very akin to Royal City.
But where the two books diverge immensely is in the length of their respective stories. While Underwater Welder clocks in at a relatively massive 224 pages, Frogcatchers is a mere 112. If I’m being totally honest here, I could’ve easily read this story for another 100 to 200 pages. It’s that beautiful. I breezed through it like it was nothing. Then I looked and discovered I only had three pages left. Unlike so many other graphic novels that sometimes overstay their welcome, I didn’t want Frogcatchers to end. Ever.
From the publisher:
A man wakes up alone in a strange room with no recollection of who he is or how he got there. The padlocked doors and barren lobby reinforce the strangeness of this place. This is””as he reads from an old-fashioned keychain beside his bed””the Edgewater Hotel. Even worse, something ominous seems to be lurking in one of the rooms.
But when he meets a young companion””the only other soul in this vast, enveloping emptiness””his new friend begs him not to unlock the door. There must be something behind it”¦but what?
A haunted hotel on the edge of reality, an endless bridge spanning an infinite ocean, and a man and a boy looking for a way out. This is the setting for a boundary-pushing, genre-defying new work of fiction by one of comics’ master storytellers.