By Jonathan Edwards
I'm not much of a musically inclined person. I mean, I like music, singing for fun, and all that, but any proper musical education and proficiency both began and ended with learning recorder, xylophone, and ocarina in grade school. And yes, those were all mandatory lessons that I have since forgotten. Underwinter is a music-centric horror comic. Although, from the inverted pentagram overlaying the guy on the cover, I figured it would also contain some demon shenanigans, knowing about which tends to be one of my fortes. So, here I am reviewing it.
The issue starts off with a fairly evocative depiction of a character's (pretty sure it's Corben's) recurring nightmare. It does a pretty good job of establishing a mood of dark eroticism for the book. For the majority of this issue, which is dedicated to setup, that mood remains more of an undertone than anything else. But as the last few pages reiterate and expand on the initial sentiments of the nightmare, its prominence reemerges. And while the narration box does, at times, feel like it's trying a little too hard to hammer home the relative importance of music (specifically the playing of it) here, it remains a fairly compelling and substantial thematic to follow, especially given the last page reveal.
Conversely, the actual plot given so far is actually pretty simple and straightforward. Eleanor, Stephanie, Corben, and Kendall are four struggling musicians that land a gig, playing blindfolded for something of an Eyes Wide Shut party, or so they're told. However, before our protagonists arrive, we see that their clients are clearly up to something more nefarious than sex parties. There's not a ton in the way of actual story progression, but there are some nice character moments, some being quite subtle. The last page pretty much outright shows us that things are going to really start kicking off next issue and the direction the story is going in.
All that said about the writing, the art is easily the best thing about this book. It's gorgeously rendered in vibrant with inks reserved for specific details and outlines, as well being heavily included in the "nightmare" sections. Royal City, Dept. H, and She Wolf are all books I've talked about previously in terms of unique art styles that, by themselves, justify reading them. But more so than all of them, I think Unwritten is worth reading for the art alone (although, I do think Royal City and perhaps Dept. H are better overall). I can only imagine how the art might evolve as the story progresses.
Yes, unless you are specifically opposed to moody sensuality in your horror (or musicians), I'd say this one is worth picking up for yourself. There's the earlier presumed "demon shenanigans" to uncover in their full extant and character who feel like they've got a little more going on with them than it might appear. And once again, even if you don't end up digging Ray Fawkes for his writing, you'll still be getting the visual spectacle that is his art.
Writer/Artist: Ray Fawkes
Letterer: Steve Wands
Publisher: Image Comics