Written by: Ray Fawkes
Art by: Ray Fawkes
Publisher: Image Comics
I’ve not seen a better depiction of insanity in a comic book. Others have tried—vomiting bugs seems to be “in” right now—but Underwinter isn’t about shocking scenery and flat screams. No, it’s about falling apart, about distortion and fractals, because vomiting bugs is too easy to grasp. It’s gross, but it isn’t insane.
Underwinter is insane.
The bleak shadows, gross distortions, off-center frames, empty backgrounds, and sense of leaking are but a few of the ways Fawkes’ showcases a quartet of musicians falling apart alongside the world itself. It’s like the foundation of the comic is shaking. For every panel too distorted to understand, there’s still enough there underneath to get a sense of what’s going on. Maybe someone is scowling or screaming, maybe that’s a close-up on someone’s face. You know without knowing.
Up until this point, the distorted artwork has been either thematically appropriate or metaphorical, but in #4 it’s incorporated into the story. Someone is leaking black fluid, and at first it looks metaphorical like much of the other distortions in the series. And then it is not. A character is leaking ink, his lifeblood as a drawing, because the comic book itself is coming undone.
The rest of the book is answers, though they beget more questions. Corbin finally gets to talk with one of the cult leaders about what is happening, but there’s nothing enlightening about the conversation. It’s as dark as it’s drawn. Suffice to say, the opening two pages to this book are fantastic.
Underwinter isn’t a book for everyone. There are times when I’m not sure if it’s actual high art or pretentious and really good at pretending, but I love it either way. It’s absolutely brilliant.