By Daniel Vlasaty
When I was a kid I was afraid to take shits because I thought a skeleton was going to reach up from the toilet, grab my ass, and pull me down into the sewer. I’ve known other people that thought snakes or rats or alligators. But I don’t know why I thought skeletons were going to get me. I was afraid of toilets. I was afraid of sewers. I was a weird kid. But listen, the sewers are a fucked up, ugly, nasty, creature-y place, I guess. Especially in Christophe Bec’s and Stefano Raffaele’s Under: Scourge of the Sewer #1.
Under: Scourge of the Sewer is about a city’s sewer system and all the people and monsters and mysteries hiding down there. Megalopolis is a city that is very proud of its sewer system. It’s the city’s claim-to-fame, for some reason, and apparently took two centuries to build. Literally, I have no idea what’s going on here. Jericho was once one of the city’s top cops. His nickname was super cop. But after he fucked up a hostage situation and got a fellow officer killed, he was transferred to the Megalopolis City Sewer Police. I want to say that it seems ridiculous for a city to have a completely separate police force dedicated to the sewer system, but remember that this is Megalopolis and they have 700,000,000 feet of sewer line. So maybe it kind of makes sense for a city to have a sewer police department, I don’t know, but do the sewer cops really need hover-boats with teams of five or six cops patrolling at all times? And riot gear and automatic weapons?
Jericho is tasked with baby-sitting a graduate student who is touring the city’s sewers while studying urban myths about giant sewer creatures. And he’s not too happy about it. This is when the dead bodies start piling up. Because also Megalopolis’ homeless population has been calling the sewers home. They’re known as Pariahs and they sift through the shit and muck of the city looking for treasures and jewelry that the rich citizens maybe flush down their toilets.
Seriously, I’m not joking. This is what Under: Scourge of the Sewer is actually about. But stay with me because it gets even more weird and ridiculous and at some point I think my hair started to fall out while I was reading.
There actually are giant sewer creatures living in the sewers, feeding on the Pariahs. And the mayors up to something and you can tell because of the giant cigars he’s smoking and the fact that he pays his henchman with a briefcase full of gold bars. (Like what the actual fuck is going on in this book?) Jericho and the graduate student (she’s super hot by the way) end up banging, because why not? There’s a high speed hover-boat chase between the Pariahs and the mayors goons. There are jewelry stores robbers that use the sewer system to get away from cops by find themselves face to face with a giant fifty-foot spider.
Okay, breathe, because I think I got all the major “plot” points across. Basically, this book is a mess. None of it makes any sense. And it’s just completely ridiculous. The characters are sterile and clichéd. The “plot” is a hodgepodge of…I mean, all the shit I mentioned above. I’m like actually at a loss here. Honestly, someone tell me what the fuck I just read. I think Bec was going for that cheesy, so-bad-it’s-good b-movie feel here but it definitely missed the mark for me. There are just too many things going on. Too many different tropes all crammed into the same story. It left me feeling sad and confused and pissed off.
Literally, none of this makes any sense. And there are just a lot of weird little side things that happen that have no real connection to the rest of the book. Like, when the grad student is changing into a sewer cop uniform for the tour (?) there are two security guards or janitors (or whatever) watching her change on the security cameras. They are watching her on a panel of like four or five screens and it’s a bunch of different angles and views of her getting undressed. And the security guards or whatever are having a discussion about how this is one of the perks of the job (first of all, how many hot grad students are coming down to the sewers and changing in front of these creeps?) and they’re also talking about how websites like voyeur.com will pay $1500 for videos like this. Like, why is this scene even in the book? For the excuse to show a half-naked woman? Because boobs, man. Haha. LOL. This scene does nothing to further the story and I think might just be a plug for voyeur.com.
I don’t know, man. I would like to find one good thing to talk about in this review. One fucking thing. And I’ve been sitting here pulling my beard out trying to think. And all I can come up with is that James Stokoe does the cover, and obviously it’s a great cover. But that’s like wrapping a turd in a one-hundred dollar bill.
The art, while not out-right bad, didn’t do anything for me either. It’s kind of generic and plain and boring. I was hoping at least that the creature design would have won me over. I mean, come on, giant mutated sewer creatures? There’s obviously some room to play here. But sadly, no, they are regular ass spiders and alligators, albeit giant. Sad.
Like most people I don’t like writing bad reviews. I get no joy out of not liking something. I wish everything I read was the best thing ever. And usually the stuff I chose to read is pretty good. But I fucked up here. Under: Scourge of the Sewer #1 is just a mess. I can’t describe it any other way. It’s just fifty pages of ugh. I know what you’re thinking, too. I know it because I thought the same thing. You’re thinking, Man, giant fucking sewer creatures, that’s right up my alley or you’re thinking about jumping into this book because of Stokoe’s beautiful cover. I’m telling you, man, these are the two reasons I was excited to read this book. But I’m begging you, please, please, please don’t waste your time or money on this mess. Or do, I guess. I don’t know. You do you.