By Dustin Cabeal
I never really intended to read The Unsound until BOOM! sent it along to me for review. It took me a long time to crack open the pages. It had nothing to do with the creative team or the publisher. Just something about it didn’t interest me. You’re probably waiting for the swerve where I say, “but boy was I wrong.” Well, it’s not coming.
The story follows a woman named Ashli (a very annoying spelling if you ask me) as she starts her first day in a mental hospital. The hospital was closed for a period, but now their doors are open again, and they have more patients than workers. The first day goes south when the patients riot and force the staff to run for their lives. Frightening right? Yeah, you’d think that, but that’s the problem with The Unsound, it’s never that scary. It has potential in the beginning when Ashli finds herself in a room with what looks like a corpse talking to her or three patients that try to bring her to “the Prince.”
Along their journey, they’re helped by a man that wears a paper plate for a mask. He makes them all put on paper plates so that they aren’t “seen” by the other dwellers of the city that’s been built underneath the insane asylum. Of course, one by one, they’re picked off, and something strange or tragic happens to them. There was only one death/capture that has actually shocking, but with it being the only one I’m hesitant to spoil it.
Only Ashli spelled wrong, and paper plate guy have any sort of character development. Everyone else is fodder for the story. Speaking of which, there could have been so many moments in which you wonder if the characters are going crazy. Is this really happening or has Ashli fallen into some crazy world like Alice or some shit. Instead, it never once feels like a hallucination. No matter how hard the art tried, it all came across straightforward. Which is a shame because a story like this lives or dies based on the audience wondering if it’s all really happening. When you can easily decide for yourself, “yes, it is” then it loses an important element of the story.
The artwork has a lot of strengths, but the biggest fault is that it doesn’t make you feel crazy while looking at it. It’s just never creepy enough to scare you, but it does have this amazingly unique look to it that I couldn’t get enough of. On the one hand, I liked the art, but on the other, I could see how it wasn’t elevating the story in the way it needed to. Which was a strange feeling for sure to love something for what it was, but then to acknowledge that it would be better on a different tale. Visually, it’s stunning to look at, but the art correlates with the story being told, and that’s where it doesn’t quite make it.
The Unsound does have a wonderful premise and sets up future stories to be told in this world. While I’m a bit curious about those other stories, this first volume could have been stronger in setting up that world. Too many pages were spent trying to be eerie or set up maddening moments only to have it sputter out in the end. The idea is interesting, but the execution could use some more work. Hopefully, we’ll see some growth from the creators on the next volume, if there is a next volume.
Jack T. Cole