The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire

IMG_0220        I found this one on AmaIMG_0226zon, again, and it got some good reviews so I decided to check it out. When I bought it I did not realize it was a black and white graphic novel, which I am not a huge fan of, but at the same time you get to see how creative the artist can be with a very basic color pallet.

The story has a few aspects that I feel are very overdone, but at the same time it takes them and puts a whole new spin on them. The story starts off with a younger guy who works on an oil rig as an underwater welder, hence the title. He is about to leave his very pregnant wife to work for a few weeks out on the rig. As you can imagine she is not very happy about his job and having to leave her all the time especially now. He leaves against the wishes of his wife because he loves what he does and loves being in the water. While he is working at the rig welding he sees something strange underwater and the story unfolds from there. What he finds starts to change his life and he is hard pressed to figure out what is going on. He seems to time travel back to a period of his life where he is struggling to cope with as an adult. Slowly he starts to piece together what is going on and why he has travelled back. His father who was killed when he was a young boy seems to have torn his faIMG_0227mily apart, along with the fact that he was an alcoholic. Jack, the main character, finally gets to see what happens to his father and put it to rest. Sometimes fixing the past can help your future.

As I stated in the opening some of the themes in the book are very cliché but there is such a new spin on them that as a reader you are not lulled to sleep with these overdone ideas. By the end of the story you get a real sense of the characters especially Jack and a lot of his issues that drive him.

The artwork in the book is hit and miss for me. As soon as I started reading it I thought to myself that his looked like the art inSweet Tooth, and sure enough it is the same guy. The artwork is crude at best, the faces of most of the characters are harsh as is a lot of the backgrounds. At times some of the characters look deformed and rugged, as the artwork lacks some detail. In quite a few of the scenes the seagulls are nothing more that “M’s” like you use to draw when you were a child. So like I said it is very crude and does lack some quality, but at the same time there is a unique stylized feel to the art that really works for the story. I think with this style it is better that there is no color in the book.IMG_0225

Another thing I liked about the book is the page layouts and how some of the scenes are set up. A lot of the full page spreads are really cool and could really be full size paintings, in my opinion. The coloring and I use that word meaning how the shading of light and dark occur on the page, really makes for a neat overall experience while reading. As I mentioned above I think adding color would take away even more from the artwork, or highlight more of the shortcomings. Although, the cover is in color and looks fantastic, but I also think a little more time and detail went into making the cover for the book. On the flip side a nice dose of color could also hide a lot of the crudeness of the artwork.

There is a nice forward for the book that I liked and an afterward telling the reader more about Jeff Lemire. He is a Canadian writer who has worked on various other projects the most famous probably being Sweet Tooth. Also, there is quite a bit of hype that comes with this IMG_0221book as it was listed as one of the best graphic novels of 2012. To me I have a tough time saying it was one of the best, I am by no means saying it is not good. I just think to be in that category it needs every aspect art, great story, and page layouts. This story has two of the three to me. I will play devil’s advocate, just because I am not a fan of the artwork should not hurt the overall story.

I recommend this book, especially if you are a fan of Lemire’s work. The story is good and mixes in a lot of different elements to tell the same story a different way. I always like a new and different spin on an old idea, so this one is worth the read. Check it out if you get a chance.

Manik

 

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