By Jonathan Edwards
Hrm, this is not the second issue I expected. At first, I thought it was, and I got excited. But as I read on, the promise of a deeper exploration of the demonic forces teased previously quickly gave way to decompressed check-ins with each of the quartet's members. Okay, I thought to myself, it's just reorienting us, and then it's going really dig in. A few pages later, it was suddenly over. I was surprised, and I couldn't help but wish there had been a bit more. In that regard, you could say that this issue was something of a letdown. Although, it is still enjoyable.
Underwinter #2 starts promisingly enough. Mister Maranatha (who I believe hired the quartet but wasn't named last issue) is being told by, presumably, someone else that works at the mansion that Corben didn't follow instructions, and partially removed his blindfold when they played. This leads into the question of what exactly he saw. "I wonder how his mind drew its borders, in its struggle to comprehend" wonders the employee. Now, those who read the first issue will remember that what Corben saw was very unambiguously a bird-headed man that was probably (read: definitely) a demon. It was very Collin de Plancy. It's super cool, and we don't get enough of that when it comes to depictions of the damned and demonic. And then, this issue went ahead and topped it off with some hardcore Lovecraft on top of that. Now, that is a winning recipe. Although, that's about as far as we get with the supernatural this time around.
I already mentioned how the rest of the issue was dedicated to Kendall, Stephanie, Corben, and Eleanor, and that wasn't understatement. They each get a few pages focusing on them independently and their lives after having played that first time at the mansion. To be fair, this part does have a lot of good stuff in it. We get character development in terms of motivations, backstory, and the lingering effects of Corben's stolen glance at bird-head demon-man. The down side, however, is that the pace is left slower than it already was. Really, it feels like this should've been included in the first issue, and I really can't think of a single reason that it wasn't. Image definitely doesn't care about issue page length (they let Ales Kot get away with an over 50-page first issue for Wolf), so did Ray Fawkes just really want to limit himself to 20-page issues? It seems particularly weird when there are an additional ten or so pages dedicated to a sneak preview and ads for other, unrelated Image books.
What does persist as expected is the art. It remains very good, and it does a great job of tinging key moments with a very particular tone. There's something to be said about depicting sexuality without being arousing to the reader (whether intentional or not). That seems to be the goal here, and I think Fawkes manages it pretty well. I will say, there was a moment or two where it was kind of hard to tell what exactly the art was trying to show. It was less of a matter of the surrealism used with some of the imagery and more about certain details being left slightly too vague. It's not enough to reduce the overall quality, but I did have to stop a couple times in order to figure out exactly what I was looking at because of it.
I'll be honest, this issue did have me rethink the book a bit. If you read the last one and didn't quite care for it, you probably don't need to keep reading. If you did like it, you can probably go ahead and pick this one up. Although, I would keep in mind that Fawkes's writing is perhaps preferencing the trade over monthly reading, but issue #3 could prove me wrong. But for what's it's worth, Underwinter #2 didn't kill for me, and I will be back for the next one.
Writer/Artist: Ray Fawkes
Letterer: Steve Wands
Publisher: Image Comics