Review: The Underwater Welder from @JeffLemire and @TopShelfComix
Short Version: A beautiful tale of reconciling our past with our future and making the decision about what is important, it’s a philosophical book to be sure, but it’s beautifully drawn, well-paced, emotionally resonant, and thoroughly engrossing.
Score: 10 out of 10.
Writer and Artist: Jeff Lemire
Jeff Lemire (Essex County, Sweet Tooth, Animal Man) is well past the point of being called a ‘rising star’ of the comic book world, which is why it surprised me that I had never heard of The Underwater Welder until yesterday when I was scouring Comixology. I knew nothing about the book going in, but I’m glad that I paid the $9.99 for it, to be sure, although it would have been a bargain at $19.95.
The Underwater Welder introduces you to Jack, and underwater welder (natch) who lives in Nova Scotia with his wife, who is pregnant with their first child. However, Jack is only happy when he is diving. When he is completely alone. The diving is both literal and metaphorical, with Jack not just making two pipes connect, but trying to connect the pieces of his own memories, to reconcile his thoughts about his past with his current unhappiness and fears. When Jack dives to the bottom of the ocean looking for something out of his past, he is faced with questions about who he is and who he will become.
I’m being obtuse because I don’t want to spoil any of this for you. Lemire expertly strings out parts of Jack’s story and there’s some science fiction elements, a certain angle of the mysterious, but the truth is that it is all secondary to the personal story that Lemire is telling here, which is one that many people struggle with: Our attempts to explain why we are who were are, who we want to be, and what we might become if we are not careful. While there is a supernatural angle, I couldn’t encourage you to pick up the story for that reason, or let you expect that it will play heavily into the story, per se. Instead, go in expecting an engrossing tale about the human experience and watch the fantastic way that Lemire tells that story. The art is all pen and ink and fits the story perfectly. I don’t know that the book would have had the same impact if it had been all bright colors and clean lines. It’s a story about introspection and self-discovery through facing our past, and Lemire isn’t afraid to let panels and pages go by without dialogue. That is not to say it’s a dialogue-light book, but Lemire does a lot of work with negative space and splash pages to set the tone.
The print edition is due out in August and will retail for $19.95 and it would be well worth it at that price. Still, the digital version is available now for only $9.99 (I grabbed mine from Comixology, but it’s also available from iBooks and the nook store, if one of those is your preferred method) and for that amount, if you at all like philosophical books about the human experience I’m not sure how you could not pick it up at that price. It’s beautiful, compelling story of a person’s journey into how their past shapes their future and if they can stop it from doing so.
Score: 10 out of 10.