Jeff Lemire is great at character studies in the context of a larger plot. A good example is his work on Animal Man, easily one of the best books of the New 52 and one where both Buddy Baker and his family are sharply rendered and become richer as characters as time goes on.
The Underwater Welder shows that off to great effect. It’s a story about letting go, and how hard it is.
Jack Joseph has a baby on the way but in some ways is still a child himself. His father got drunk and drowned one night, at least according to the official story. But Jack can’t help but feel there’s more to it.
In the process, though, he’s withdrawing from his family into his job, diving deeper into the water and towards…something. It’s not exactly clear what Jack faces, whether it’s real or a product of his own psyche, but the story works, either way.
The thrust of the book, though, is really about parenthood. Jack’s insistence that his father’s death was more than an accident are really just his way dodging discussing how he feels about becoming a father. He’s scared out of his mind that he’s going to turn into his father… or possibly leave his child in the same emotional circumstances he was left in, one day.
Lemire’s art is equally top-notch. He didn’t phone this one in: it’s more than two hundred pages and a lot of it is dense, heavily formatted stuff. Splash panels will have dozens of smaller panels arranged in them. Sixteen and twelve panel grids are used to express everything from claustrophobia to a feeling of being jailed.
The Underwater Welder is a great book telling a great story. We rarely see comics like this and when we do, they’re always worth buying.
How about you? What’s the best comic of the week in your opinion?