Filed under: Comic Reviews, Indie Comics | Tags: Jack Johnson, Jeff Lemire, Nova Scotia, Susie Johnson, The Underwater Welder
The first time I read anything of Jeff Lemire’s was on DC’s New 52 reboot title Animal Man which turned out to be one of the best titles to come out of the while reboot – after that I wasn’t sure where to begin so when I spotted his latest release, The Underwater Welder, I thought I’d dive in….no pun intended….I swear!!
What I ended up with was in this graphic novel release is a true original piece of work, with Lemire on top form on both the writing and art work. The black & white interiors are brought to life by the writing as a real-life tale full of feeling, strong characters with a complex family setup and a poignant mystery as our main character Jack Johnson seems to be struggling with the world around him and in his head.
Jack is on the verge of becoming a first-time father and his off-shore work as welder on the rigs brings him closer to finding his father – lost at sea during one of his many dives. Strange that Jack would continue in the same line of work that lead to the loss of his father but as Lemire gradually reveals, he’s clinging onto the lasting memory he holds of his father. Some true to life arguments between Jack and his wife, Susie as well as some really beautiful moments that depict the intricate details that just make some couples work. The give and take, the hopes and dreams and especially when their family is just about to get bigger.
What’s curious about this though is that Jack’s incessant need to be at work on the Nova Scotia rigs, and more importantly the risks involved, almost rob him of his chance to live his life with his own family. A close call that seems to awaken something inside him brings memories of his father flooding back and a visit to see his mother is filled with that still awkward feeling that his parents separation seems to have ALWAYS had on them.
It’s full of well structured characters and has a flowing mystery that’s well thought out and constructed by Lemire but as that is lovingly accompanied with some fine artwork from Lemire too……there’s a real feeling of patience and love being poured into the pages. He manages the close family and work relationships skilfully and they’re dotted throughout the title with pages full of multiple-panelled and detailed conversations. A strong sense of familiarity is built between our main characters with some smart, playful touches that Lemire eases in so naturally that they almost pass you by.
Alongside these tight relationships we have the contrast of the wide open spaces spread across a couple of pages or pages of dark sea as the diving sections mingle to help grow the mystery that’s being laid out. Jack’s search for his father and a solution to the mystery surrounding his disappearance is infectious and that’s part of the magic of this title. A title that’s full of heart and hope as Lemire crafts an entire world for us to enjoy.
Quite possibly one of the best Graphic Novels I’ve read this year and probably for a number of years, so I’ll be sure to track down more of Lemire’s work as this proved to be an inspired addition.
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