1. The High Concept - a Twilight Zone tale
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Jeff Lemire has created one of the best comics for 2012 - it just hasn't come out yet. The Underwater Welder is a graphic novel from Top Shelf and it is currently available to preorder. As a civic duty, I thought it appropriate of me to put out the call that laying down early money on this book isn't a gamble - this book is rock solid awesome. Hit the jump to see ten reasons why you are going to click a link and preorder this masterpiece today.
1. The High Concept - a Twilight Zone tale
Let's sell you on the story. The Underwater Welder is about a man, Jack, who is both a father and a son. Well, sort of. His status as both is nebulous as it currently stands. You see, labels are tricky things because they don't fit everyone equally. And Jack is having a crisis of faith where he doesn't know where he fits.
A baby is on the way and Jack is stuck dwelling on the anniversary of his own father's disappearance. If he moves one way he seemingly moves away from the other. In this ethereal zone, Jack's world starts to fracture. Or perhaps it's more of a melting sensation. Things get a little weird, and not in any logical way. This is a strange story and you must check some reality in at the door. Don't worry, you'll be handed some incredibly rare and precious 'make believe' as a trade.
Lemire straddles the line between making a story sing on the twangs of heart strings and also dropping amazing moments of more cerebral resonance. This story is captivating in narrative and also stellar in execution of tone. This is high literature, make no mistake.
2. Lemire's Art
Jeff Lemire is an artist out to express a story. It's not exactly about moments, it’s about a series of moments. He makes comics that look and feel like the craggy pages of a tattered paperback you'd find in the back of an emporium next to the mogwais and monkey paws. Throughout this novel, and let's be bold and call it this, or perhaps a novella, there is an abundant amount of 'silent' art - that is panels and pages of stolen moments where we definitely don't need dialogue and even score or ambient noise would be a bit far off. There is only us and the page and with that connection Lemire owns us completely.
You don't find art like this in the cape books. And that's a true shame. Lemire's scratchy lines and haggard people convey more emotional story for the character than any digital colour ever could. Lemire's style is uniquely his own and, once again, he's used it to tell a story only he could tell. Well, only he could tell this superbly.
3. The Heart, Oh, The Heart
Sometimes you have to read something that might very well make you cry. Or it will change the way you view the world. Hell, it can even make you get up and do something, like call your father. There is so much heart in this book that you might feel things you've buried dormant for years, possibly even decades. This is a story about fatherhood, at its core. My father died when I was five years old. I now have a two year old. I see fatherhood from both sides and so this book hit me twice as hard. Lemire drops the sort of truth here most people sweep very quickly and very quietly under the rug. The Underwater Welder is like a home start up kit one-man grief counseling and fear tempering session. This isn't a dumb narrative to simply entertain and be forgotten, this is a haunting lesson in life you need to keep with you forever.
4. The Lettering
How often do you read a comic and never once think about the lettering because it purely serves its purpose? How often do you read a comic and notice horrendous lettering? Now, how often do you stop and completely adore the lettering in a book? The Underwater Welder is gloriously in the latter because each letter comes out as its own piece of art. Seriously. Lemire knows what he's doing and he's doing it perfectly. An emotional book needs some serious words and here we get them in spades.
5. The Size - 200+ Pages
Look at all those pages. You have your choice of densely packed story and extremely wide splashes of significance. It's win/win. This sequential medium is a never-ending second act story where we rarely get a whole tale. For this reason, it's always nice to take a break and sink our teeth into something meaty. If you're after meaty, this book’s a finely cured hide with a side of relish.
6. Damon Lindelof's Introduction
I love introductions/forewords/author's notes. I love hearing the process and craft from behind the curtain. It's fascinated me since I was extremely young. I love Lemire's work and I love LOST. To then see Damon Lindelof writing the introduction to this book was a perfect match in my mind. Especially now we know the pair have collaborated on a superb and short Batman digital comic. When unions like this occur the fanboy in me squeals with far too much delight.
But, anyway, back to this actual introduction. Lindelof has a casual and easy manner when he's writing directly to his audience. He speaks pleasantly and yet still smartly. He teases the story, he drops a major cultural touchstone reference, and he makes us want to become part of this comic. This is the right sort of introduction and it certainly whets your appetite.
7. Splash Pages
There are quite a few splash pages, singles and doubles. Lemire does them all with purpose. Whether it’s to slow you down, or make you think, every splash is metered with an effect in mind. There are a few underwater splashes and Lemire makes them all isolated and haunting. The ethereal nature of Jack's visits down there are distorted and otherworldly.
Then there are the splashes of the town. Lemire's work might feel scratchy and mostly intuitive but when he sets the scene he does so with precision. The harbour of the town looks incredibly dense and it's both familiarly welcoming while being strangely off putting. The landscape is a character and only Lemire knows it.
8. The 12 Panel Grid
Format can be a hell of a thing. Comforting, constraining, maybe sometimes a little confronting. Lemire goes for a 12 panel grid on much of this one and it brings the characters to the front. Lemire steps back for scope with his splashes but once he's in the tale you are as well. We pack in tight on faces, we layer the pages thick with narrative. This choice is a good one and works for the book in many ways.
9. It Is Seriously Brilliant
If you haven't got this yet then know it from this overly stressed point on its own. The Underwater Welder is one of the best books of 2012. I'm calling it now.
10. Lemire's Selling DC, Now Let's Sell HIS Comics
Tens of thousands of people buy Lemire's work at DC every month. Animal Man sells well, he's just taken over Justice League Dark to acclaim and sales. If only half this audience picks up this amazing OGN from Top Shelf then it'll get the attention it deserves, and also drop enough cash in Lemire's lap for what has been a work of passion for a very long time. I'm a big believer that we should all support quality, and the quality doesn't get much better than this. Let's show Lemire, the industry, your friends, yourself, whomever, that you support quality and you support a creator. If you liked Lemire's previous stuff then I guarantee you'll love this one. If you dig Lemire's DC work then there's as much heart here as there is in the Baker we've come to love under his guidance.
The Underwater Welder is the comic we all want. This is heartbreaking and smart stuff, Lemire at this best. Click the link and preorder your copy now.