It isn’t often that I find myself crying after being told a sad story. In fact, only three times this year have I actually full blown shed tears because of a story. First was in a very devastating episode of Supernatural, and the second time was after watching the documentary Dear Zachary. The third time was just last Sunday afternoon reading Jeff Lemire’s The Underwater Welder.
The Underwater Welder is a different take on a study of a family and of a man coming to terms with life, as it is a ghost story of sorts. It’s a story of a father and son, of a husband and wife, of a couple and their new child. It follows Jack Joseph, a man who works on an oil rig as a deep-sea welder in Nova Scotia. After finding a piece of his past while diving one day, his world begins to change. Through visions and dreams, Jack’s life takes a strange turn, as he finds himself part of a series of weird supernatural events that forces him to come to terms with his past. This culminates in various realisations that will ensure that many a tear will be shed in Jack’s quest to come to terms with his past, and ultimately his future.
Lemire manages to create a strong cast of characters in Jack’s life. Jack is a loving husband, but is all too often vague and distant with his wife, Susan. She is caring, but borders on overbearing and nagging at times, as Jack attempts to figure out what is going on in his life. Alongside Susan, Jack’s father Peter plays an important role. Often unreliable, Peter still wishes to maintain a good relationship with his son throughout the book. Despite each of these characters’ flaws, Lemire succeeds in making you truly care about the people in Jack’s life. Emotions and interactions between the cast is the heart of The Underwater Welder, and is where it shines the most.
Lemire also takes art duties in his graphic novel, as he utilises rough pencil along with grey tones to help accentuate the setting and tone of the story. His art-style can be divisive, as it is often surreal and very odd, but it has this strange sense of beauty behind it. It works wonderfully within the confines of the story, as there are at least a few pages that split a larger image into many panels that give a fantastic effect.
If you are looking for an original story this year, then pick up this odd book. Let the story of Jack and his quest draw you in, because The Underwater Welder is one of the best graphic novels this year, and should not be missed.