Book Worm: The Underwater Welder
Gabriel Estra (@MediiaGeek)
Every now and then there comes a comic book that shows you the possibilities of what this medium can accomplish. Without a doubt Jeff Lemire’s The Underwater Welder is that kind of book.
Jeff Lemire entered the comic book mainstream when he started writing Animal Man, Justice League Dark, and Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., all a part of the DC New 52. Other comic book fans know Jeff Lemire as the writer/artist who created the brilliant and powerful works Sweet Tooth and the Essex County Trilogy. Lemire returns to his roots with The Underwater Welder where he shows that his recent work with the superhero genre hasn’t disrupted the creator owned quality he’s known for. His works focus on truthful storytelling and real world themes which is what Lemire captures once again in this new book.
The Underwater Welder revolves around Jack Joseph and as you could tell from the title he’s an underwater welder working on an oilrig off the coast of Nova Scotia. Even though his job has trained him to work under immense pressure nothing can prepare Jack for the pressures that fatherhood brings along. As Jack’s wife keeps getting closer and closer to giving birth he can’t seem to focus on the present. Jack lost his father as a young boy under mysterious circumstances and can’t simply wrap around the fact that his father just drowned one night. As his wife gets closer to having the baby Jack starts having visions of his father. Like most of Lemire’s previous work, the story here is fairly simple and character driven. Jack metaphorically and physically begins to dive deeper and deeper into his own past. Then one night Jack has a mysterious and supernatural encounter that will change the course of his life forever.
Lemire makes The Underwater Welder an introspective journey which is able to draw the reader not only into the story but also into themselves. Almost everyone knows the feeling of wanting to be alone. Jack’s profession allows him to do that just that. He is able to use his job as a place to a recharge and escape all his problems. Lemire allows us to connect to Jack; this desire is a desire that can be identified with by anybody, no matter who you are. All of us tend to hold on to intangible things. Nearly all of us tend to romanticize of days passed, or daydream about how life is supposed to be. These things can control our lives more than the people and relationships we have in the present. Lemire makes you realize the bittersweet nature of memories and how they can often be as damaging as they are precious. This book makes you think of these things in your own life and helps you focus on what’s really important.
What makes this story come together is Lemire’s art. Lemire’s art can be hard to appreciate or get into. It’s almost like an acquired taste but his art is simple yet beautiful which is hard thing to accomplish. His illustrations are all beautifully done in black-and-white. The pencils in The Underwater Welder can be described as raw, but it’s the rawness helps convey the emotion that Lemire is trying to portray in his panels.
Damon Lindelof opens up the Underwater Welder with an introduction calling it, “the most spectacular Twilight Zone episode that was never produced”. I honestly couldn’t agree more. The Underwater Welder is a beautiful mixture of great storytelling and art. Lemire keeps cementing himself as one the great modern writers with each new work he puts out. Even though we are only half way done with the year this is the best graphic novel of the year. Go out and buy this 220 page masterpiece.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars