The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf, 2012)
Essex County by Jeff Lemire is still one of my very favorite comics. It’s beautiful and moving and just absolutely lovely. I was thrilled when I found out that he had a new comic out last summer and when I finally held it in my hands, opened it up and read the introduction? I knew that this graphic novel was going to be for me. The introduction is written by Lost writer Damon Lindelof and he describes The Underwater Welder as an episode of The Twilight Zone.
I don’t know if you know this about me, but I had a good few years when I was obsessed with The Twilight Zone. I would get out the newspaper or watch that scrolling TV Guide channel to see when it was on cable. I just loved the way the stories were told and I loved how weird and sometimes sad, sometimes scary they were. The Underwater Welder really did feel like an episode of The Twilight Zone, like one of the best episodes.
Jack is an underwater welder on an oil rig off the coast of Nova Scotia. His wife is about to give birth to their first child, but all Jack can think about is working. It’s partially to have enough money to raise his child, but also because the pressure of starting a family is getting to him. His own father died when he was very young in an unexplained accident and Jack has never really gotten over it. When he goes out on the rig just a few weeks before his child is born, he experiences a strange event underwater that sends him in a spiral.
In Essex County, Jeff Lemire’s snow and ice-covered landscapes were amazing. He does the same thing in The Underwater Welder with the coastline. The art is beautiful, but also evokes the loneliness that Jack is feeling. The book is very much about the parallels between Jacks life and his father’s life. Where they are similar and where they are very different. As he gets closer to the birth of his child, he finds himself feeling more and more like his father. As that happens, suddenly his features begin to look more like his father’s. It’s subtle, but there.
I had a chance to meet Jeff Lemire at Comic Con in 2011, but I didn’t stay around. I regret it! I would have loved to meet him and have him sign the hardcover of Essex County that I bought at the con. The moral of that story is… don’t be lazy! Stick around at an exhausting convention to meet one of your favorite comic artists. I’ve been kicking myself ever since.