Underwater Welder, The

Jeff Lemire’s latest graphic novel is about a man, haunted by his past, trying to come to terms with his future

The Underwater Welder - Jack rows to the rigJeff Lemire has created a sad, spooky graphic novel, about a man struggling to escape his past. Jack lives in a tiny town called Tigg’s Bay, whose population serve an off-shore oil rig. He is a diver – an underwater welder – who descends into the murky depths to fix the rig’s constantly eroding struts and pipes. He’s a loner and likes it that way, working solitarily, with only his thoughts to distract him from the work at hand.

Back on land, his partner Suse is about to give birth to their first child, but Jack is failing to come to terms with it. Through flashback we learn of his own relationship with his father, also a diver, but more of a part-time treasure hunter and full-time drunk. Jack is haunted by the ghost of his Dad, unable to move his life along until he exorcises his demons.

The Underwater WelderTigg’s Bay is as much a character in the book as humans. The town is perched on the edge of the sea, changing subtly with the ebb and flow of the tide, but wholly dependent on the rig for its inhabitants’ employment.

Lemire’s illustration is bleak, melancholy and beautiful. The art sucks you deep into Jack’s world. The characters are compelling and complex, with Jack’s troubled childhood relationship with his father written through every line on his face. Suse should be blossoming and happy but her dreams are disintegrating as her child grows inside her and she realises that Jack’s increasing distance from her and the unborn child might be more than just prenatal nerves.

Lemire’s creative power is intense and he’s crafted a near perfect book. If you like sophisticated stories, tinged with humanity, sadness and regret, this graphic novel is going to be a real treat.

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