Written by: Ray Fawkes
Art by: Ray Fawkes
Published by: Image Comics
I love Lovecraftian horror. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has followed my reviews on Underwinter, since every one has brought the genre up. I’ll gladly compare it to the likes of Stephen King’s Revival and John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness, and of course actual Lovecraft stories such as “The Call of Cthulhu” or “The Haunter of the Dark.” It’s got all of the grisly themes of insanity, eldritch gods, and flawed characters in the wrong places at the wrong time.
Lovecraft would be proud.
However, Ray Fawkes has managed to do what Lovecraft could not: Present the unknowable in a way that works. “To look upon the eldritch is to go insane” makes for a nice concept, but in practice it’s boring. We as readers want to see it! We want a glimpse, a something, and tentacles aren’t all that spooky.
Ray Fawkes portrays the unknowable, and he does so in such a wonderful, imaginative way that I’m left kind of speechless. The fractals, the distorted water colors, they all exist to portray that which would make us go insane in a way that leaves our sanity intact. Some of his panels are confusing and hard to follow, so distorted that they at first appear to be washes of color. So you look closer. That’s when you see outlines, bits of hair or screaming mouths. That’s when you see the blood.
It is wonderful. Truly, truly wonderful.
Issue #6 is easily some of Fawkes’ best artwork yet.
Issue #6 also adds some new themes to the mix, most notaly time. The entire issue is presented as an elongated “life-passing-before-your-eyes” moment; however, time and the eldritch are not friends. Time is forced to distort, and so does everything else. Is someone dying, or is no one dying? Can anyone die at all under these circumstances? It’s a chilling question as the quartet goes up against an actual eldritch being with nothing more than their instruments and fragile sanity. The entire issue is a 24-page climactic fight scene that’s hardly a fight scene, yet it has more tension than any big action sequence I’ve seen this year.
Because it’s hard to tell if it’s an actual fight or someone’s last dying breath. The book walks the question like a razor’s edge until the very end, which–like everything else–is delightfully Lovecraftian.
Underwinter has been some of the best Lovecraftian horror I’ve ever read. Ray Fawkes has truly added to the genre, and he’s used every facet of the comic book medium to do so. I’ll admit that this series comes with a learning curve—it asks a lot of its readers—but for those up to the challenge, the reward is a comic unlike anything I’ve ever read yet.