Meet Thad, The Swimmer You’ll Love To Hate In Deep-Ender #2

by James Ferguson

Two people putting their lives back together have found each other at a local pool. Their paths have intersected, but are they swimming together? Or are they just bumping into one another? Deep-Ender, the awkward, yet hilarious romantic comedy continues.

Ollie has some very real anxiety and he goes to great lengths to avoid possible humiliation. After making a fool of himself in front of Silvia in the last issue, he practically moves to another town in this one. He tries to sign up for a new pool run by bronze medalist Thad Bestarde, but he doesn’t quite fit in there.

Writer John Lees and artist Jules Rivera make for a powerful one-two punch when it comes to character introduction and development. This is definitely the case with Thad. You understand exactly the kind of person he is within the first few panels. The fact that he’s a bronze medalist is such a perfect detail. He wasn’t good enough to get the gold, so he’s come back home where he can have a gold medal of life, feeling superior to everyone else.

Similarly, the design for Thad is spot on. I love the little detail of the whites around his eyes. Otherwise, his skin is orange, implying that he spends a good amount of time in a tanning bed. Also, he wears a glittery cape. Thad is like a modern day version of Biff from Back to the Future. I already hate him and we’re only given more reasons to do that as Deep-Ender #2 goes on.

There’s a cartoonish element to Deep-Ender that fits very well. Yes, this is a romantic comedy, but it’s not a sappy one, although Lees can pull on the heartstrings when needed. Rivera’s artwork is a perfect fit for this story, emphasizing the sillier elements, like Ollie’s reaction to a speedo and the more somber moments, like Ollie’s reflection showing how he really feels about himself while speaking with Silvia.

Ollie is fighting back so much pressure and anxiety. He thinks everyone is out to get him and he’s haunted by his past. He’s shown an incredible amount of bravery just showing up and speaking to Silvia, but that could change at the drop of a hat. Ollie may seem unreasonable at times, but that’s just how this kind of thing can manifest.

Letterer Shawn Lee captures some of these feelings well, especially during a heated exchange between the two leads. Ollie has this quiet, almost defeated segment where he’s emotionally drained, but he’s found the strength to turn around and face Silvia again. His words come out in this small, almost imperceptible font.

You can see some real progress for not just Ollie, but for Silvia as well in Deep-Ender #2. They have found something to keep them going in each other and it’s really very sweet. Of course, nothing goes as planned and a monkey wrench is thrown into things to mess it up. It calls into question their budding relationship and if and how they can continue.

Deep-Ender is as sweet as it is hilarious. It really speaks to the idea of a romantic comedy as a nice blend between those two genres. It’s not overly sappy or too slapstick. It sits squarely in the middle, which makes it a fun book and that anyone can enjoy.

Deep-Ender is currently only available digitally and for free to subscribers of John Lees’ newsletter.

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