3. The Underwater Welder (Top Shelf Productions)
Writer/artist: Jeff Lemire
Proving that you don’t need superheroes or non-stop action to make a great comic book, Jeff Lemire’s The Underwater Welder seemingly came out of nowhere earlier in the year and completely changed the way we look at the medium. The story revolves around an underwater welder named Jack who's about to become a father. But in order to become the dad that he knows he has to be, he needs to make peace with his relationship with his own father on the anniversary of his death.
As Jack throws himself into his work, he begins to dive both physically and emotionally deeper into the murky waters of his own life. It’s a tale of love, guilt, and growing up in which Lemire manages to tap into the universal struggles that we all go through in our lives. The Underwater Welder deals with the fear we all have of letting go of the comforts of our youth as we seek to become more responsible adults.
On the art side, Lemire’s peculiar character models and backgrounds perfectly fit this story. The human emotion is in every panel, and Lemire seemingly went through great pains to make sure each bit of art worked towards enhancing the story. It’s actually quite beautiful in its simplicity, and though it may take some getting used to, there is no other way we would have wanted this to be done.
Crafted with the gravitas of any great film or novel, The Underwater Welder is a triumph, not only for Lemire, but for comic books in general. For a writer who has had so much mainstream success over the past few years, it’s an encouraging sign to see him continue to challenge himself, and us as readers, with books as personal and earnest as this.