Jeff Lemire’s The Underwater Welder naturally progresses from his last OGN, The Nobody, by blending sci-fi with the terrifying moments of the everyday. Here, Lemire explores a man’s fear of becoming a father by exploring his own relationship to his father. Set around Halloween, when the dead come back to us, our protagonist experiences his own mini episode of the Twilight Zone to come to grips with the changes in his life. Like so much of Lemire’s work, the silence becomes overwhelming and the full emotional weight is perfectly paced and expressed. It may not be the most political book or even the most complex, but Lemire’s simple story about the pressures of everyday life and the mundane aspects that culminate together is both moving and one to never forget.
Runner-Up: Wild Children
Wild Children is incredibly complex in its evaluation and critique of American institutionalizing of brute force, its commentary rounded out by a nuanced periphery of metaphysics and popular culture influences, and in light of recent tragedies it may be perceived as ever more poignant or perhaps even as inappropriate, which is the book's unfortunate onus, being both essential and untimely. Shortly after it was released, the Aurora shooting left many of us with an abiding uncertainty of what to say in regards to gun violence and how to say it. Coincidentally, Wild Children had quite a bit to say about gun violence, and maybe that's why, in the wake of tragedy, it was quickly relegated to "things best left unsaid." Even now, after the horrible and deeply disturbing events in Connecticut, I wonder at the appropriateness of talking about a book that portrays the armed takeover of a school. However, what writer Ales Kot and artist Riley Rossmo have to say about institutional brute force, about gun violence, and about media influence is something we all need to consider and to discuss. So, perhaps when enough time has passed, it is worth revisiting this prescient graphic novel with an open mind.