Jeff Lemire – The Underwater Welder & The Nobody
Length: 224 & 144 pages
Genre: Science Fiction, Graphic Novels
Started/Finished: 30 December 2012; 31 December 2012
Where did they come from? Christmas present from a friend; the library.
Why do I have them? Gift, and then I recognized the author during a quick library browse.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 22 December 2012.
The Underwater Welder is the story of Jack, a man who is about to become a father for the first time, and is still troubled by his relationship with his own father, who disappeared mysteriously when Jack was still a boy. One day, while he is underwater working on repairing an oil rig, he sees something impossible on the ocean floor… but not as impossible as what he finds when he surfaces again.
This was a very interesting piece of fiction. The introduction by Damon Lindelof compares it to a Twilight Zone episode, and I think that’s pretty apt: focusing on a normal person, and a normal problem, but with a supernatural and very creepy twist partway through. The core of the story – that of someone having to finally deal with their own relationship with their parents as they are about to become parents themselves – is one that I feel like I’ve seen done before. It’s also not a story I find particularly personally compelling, since I don’t have kids, and have what I think is a really good relationship with my parents. Lemire handles his subject matter with grace, however. Jack and his wife and his mother and his absent father feel like real people, and their reactions to each other and to the course on which life has taken them feel organic and sympathetic. 4 out of 5 stars.
The Nobody is a take on H. G. Wells’s The Invisible Man, in which a stranger covered in bandages arrives in a small town. He takes up residence in the tiny motel, and keeps to himself. Most of the townspeople distrust him, but a teenaged girl soon befriends him. But when the secrets of his past start to be revealed, both the stranger and the girl find themselves in a perilous and untenable situation.
I haven’t read The Invisible Man, so I can’t comment on how well Lemire reworked it, but I thought this was an interesting story. I like how it worked on multiple levels: it had a good story to tell, with intrigue and action, and it also had some deeper things to say about trust and identity and running from your past and being a stranger… but at the same time, it didn’t beat you over the head with those deeper meanings, and worked just fine on the more superficial level. 4 stars out of 5.
For both books, I’m somewhat torn as to how I feel about Lemire’s artwork. Taken in isolation, it’s not my favorite style. It’s greyscale, with a lot of sketchy pencil lines and smudges. It doesn’t look unfinished, exactly, but whatever the antonym of “polished” is, this is that. But at the same time, the style perfectly suits and even adds to the stories he’s telling. They grey, sketchy lines of the art feel like the grey, worn-down buildings of a dying Nova Scotian fishing town, and the grey, worn-down people that live there. He also makes some really interesting choices regarding the composition and paneling of his story that add some spark to the work as a whole.
Recommendation: I think either book would be of interest to someone interested in modern author-illustrated graphic novels. The Underwater Welder maybe skews a little more towards fantasy and The Nobody slightly more towards science fiction, but they’re both more of the “odd happenings in small towns” variety, and so should appeal to readers outside of the genre as well.
The Underwater Welder: Bibliomantics, The Speculative Scotsman, Things Mean a Lot
The Nobody: Largehearted Boy, So Many Precious Books
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.
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