The Underwater Welder

Posted on 22 August 2012 by VinnieAve

I really enjoy graphic novels, they are so much more fulfilling than reading a chapter each week. So for the next few weeks at least I’m going to talk about a graphic novel, trade paperback, collection, or some such longer comic work. To start this off I’m going to talk about Jeff Lemire’s (Sweet Tooth, Animal Man, Justice League Dark) new graphic novel The Underwater Welder. The basic premise is this Jack Joseph is an underwater welder with a pregnant wife when he finds a watch that his father gave him on one of his jobs. This sets into motion his journey through his memories of his father and the resultant effect on his present day life

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This sounds like it could be a boring story but honestly this is what I like out of comics, not the usual super-hero stuff which is fun while it lasts but really doesn’t have a lasting effect. This is the kind of personal story is really what makes comic and any kind of narrative story telling great. That is not to say this is a great book. This is a strong book, one that I think will be enjoyed by more than the usual comic readers. This is the story of an expectant father remembering his own father. This was the most compelling part of the story, not his memories but his fight with himself in remembering his father and actually looking at who his father was. With a son on the way he doesn’t want his son to have the same kind of memories he has.

Examples of a serial panels to emphasize the slowness of time

The book speaks about the power of memory. This is a running theme, the man’s long term memory of his father runs for long stretches and after a while he starts to live in his memory more than in his own life. What is particularly powerful is when he interacts with his younger self, and you see the disappointment that Jack still harbors after all these years as he watches his younger self live these events for the first time. The use of memory tends to be disorienting, particularly at first which works since the character feels this himself to the point of even losing for hours at a time.
The art in the book is black-and-white and is combined with a use of shading and line effects conveys the proper amount of motion to this book. The art itself is in a sketchy style that particularly when it came to the faces I found to be lacking, the faces were fine when it came to Jack and his father but his wife in particular was ugly, which didn’t quite fit the story. I love the curvy lines to portray ocean movement and sounds. Throughout the book there is an excellent cinematic technique that is used which is have an image get repeated and get closer. This makes the drama of a scene really come to live and it was used very here.

An example of the curved lines to show waves.

I don’t think that The Underwater Welder is for everyone but it a nice father/son story which a bit of a supernatural element. The weakest part of the book is the face and character design but this is overcome by the other elements. If you like creepy stories this is one that is worth checking out. I hope this one is read because I enjoyed it and will recommend it people when given the chance.

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