I checked out Underground by Jeff Parker, Steve Lieber and Ron Chan because of recommendations. The comic book has been out before.
The release at the end of the month is a new print, so I benefitted from the wisdom of people brave enough to explore deadly caves ahead of me.
I knew nothing about the story, though. I could infer that we’re going underground, and the story kicks off with a debate about using or protecting an ancient cave.
But is Underground a horror story? What do we find down there? Is it fantasy, or does it stay strictly contemporary?
As it turns out, I enjoyed not knowing. I enjoyed exploring the darkness, not knowing what might be lying in wait up ahead. That is a thoroughly appropriate way to read Underground and so I won’t elaborate further.
Two key characters are Park Rangers, especially Wesley Fischer, who is determined to stop Stillwater Cave from becoming a tourist attraction.
Wes’ objections don’t go down well with the locals, though. Many of whom want to see more cash come to the struggling down.
The conflict turns violent, and that’s when the cave beckons.
Writer Jeff Parker (X-Men First Class, Batman ’66) does an excellent job keeping us on the edge of our seats. Sometimes we just don’t know what’ll happen next. Sometimes what happens next approaches like a dreadful certainty.
Exploring the darkness, being forced into it, into the unknown, is primal. In many ways, Underground is all about nature versus the trappings of modern-day life. If you had to pick one, which would it be?
And if you pick modern-day life, are you on the side of the Rangers? You’re certainly not on the side of the cave. If you don’t pick nature, then are you complicit in slowly killing the planet?
It’s a tough choice.
Artist Steve Lieber (Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, Whiteout) does the visual form of darkness very well. The darkness of the unknown is easier to draw, but the darkness created by the loss of light is more challenging do interestingly. You can’t just publish too many black squares and call a graphic novel a finished project.
Despite all the tension, despite all the clever pacing – or perhaps because of it – my favourite characters are the staff at the local grill.
I think Oni Press’ Underground is there for people who enjoy good stories.
Don’t worry now, whether it’s a horror, fantasy or something else. Instead, grab the book if you get the chance and prepare for a telling tale.
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