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ADVANCE REVIEW: The Underwater Welder

A comic review article by: David Fairbanks

 

ADVANCE REVIEW! The Underwater Welder will go on sale August 2012.

 

I'm generally not the type of reader who looks at the introduction to a book he's excited to read, unless I've already read it before. If I'm excited for it, I don't need someone telling me how exciting the book I'm holding in my hands (or reading on my screen) is, and I really don't need them to give me any expectations. Surprises in reading can be wonderful things.

Surprises like the realization that Jeff Lemire's The Underwater Welder feels like a beautifully adapted episode of The Twilight Zone. So much of what Lemire did in his 240 pages echoed the wonderfully charming, slightly creepy and perpetually relevant series. From Jack Joseph's incredibly believable working-class family life to an eerily deserted city to the necessity that something strange happens in the pitch-black depths where Jack welds. Lemire's beautiful black and white artwork sealed the deal, compelling my imagination to unlock the door to The Twilight Zone.

I went into Underwater Welder expecting little more than a story about a guy who tosses on an old dive suit, sinks deep into the ocean and fuses two pieces of metal together. If you don't know why I was excited for so simple a premise, why I expected this to be one of the best independent comics released this year, go read Essex County. Not only is Jeff Lemire one of the hardest working creators in comics (writing 3-4 titles a month and illustrating one as well), he's also easily one of the most talented and consistent.

When I went back through Underwater Welder a second time, though, I read the introduction. It seems Damon Lindelof had come to the same conclusion that I had. He added a little something to it that I hadn't realized: The Twilight Zone carried a moral implication with most of the episodes in addition to the strangeness. 

That's when it dawned on me: Lemire's creator-owned work has the feeling of modern folk tales. There are traces of myths and fables sprinkled throughout everything of his I've read, and his latest continues the trend.

Whether it's a failed relationship or a poor life choice or something so incredible that you know the rest of your life won't be able to live up to it, many people never really manage to get over some aspect of their past. For Jack Joseph, it's the disappearance of his father that weighs on him, a weight that's growing heavier each day Jack comes closer to fatherhood.

While working on a welding job one day, Jack has a hallucination and wakes up aboard the rig he works on, seeming unsure of where or when he is. 

From this moment on, Jack's drive to determine just what exactly happened to his father ratchets up, and his sanity begins to slip, to the point that it almost feels like Lemire could steer Underwater Welder in the direction of The Shining, a feeling that is only amplified by Jack's increasingly erratic behavior, the vividness and frequency of his hallucinations and his wife Suse's growing unease around him. 

The tone of the story is a perfect fit for Lemire's style. His angular, almost gaunt characters frequently seem to carry a larger than average burden of loneliness and isolation while simultaneously feeling just unreal enough to border on the dream-like, which only serves to blend the borders of the real and the imagined.

The Underwater Welder is a beautifully crafted tale of one man's need to make sense of his past and accept himself if he has any hope of being prepared for his future. 

 


 

You can buy a digital copy of The Underwater Welder now, or pick up the physical copy in stores August 2012.

 


 

David Fairbanks doesn't get many things right the first time. He studied physics in college, loves science, music, comics, poetry, movies, books and education pertaining to all of the above. He will talk your ear off about Grant Morrison and Ben Folds, has an indie bookshelf larger than his Marvel, DC and Vertigo ones combined and if he ever actually grows up, more than anything else, he wants to still be happy as an “adult,” whatever that is.

Mostly self-indulgent ramblings can be found at @bairfanx and untilsomethingbreaks.blogspot.com.

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