Advance Review – Underground #1 and #2

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Writer : Jeff Parker

Art : Steve Lieber

Color : Ron Chan

Publisher : Image Comics

A couple days ago as I was sitting down to start reading the backlog of comics I had I heard a beep.  A beep that could only mean one thing.  Oooh an e-mail showed up.  I’m always excited to read e-mails as when they come in I can pretend I have friends.  So I click.  And it’s an e-mail from Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber.  What did this e-mail contain but a the ability to read the first 2 issues of their upcoming book in beautiful full colored goodness.  Which to me is something very cool.  I mean the chance to read a book early so that I can let people know whether it is good or not BEFORE it comes out rather than after.  Something that can help a good book gain sales before it even comes out.  Or the other way around for a bad book.

About a month ago I saw Steve asking for reviewers to review the book on a message board I frequent.  Unfortunately I never ended up with access to a full colored version.  In a way I’m glad I didn’t have access through that first issues reviewer preview time.  As on the website for the comic there is a free to read black and white copy of issue #1. This made me realize something.  Something that is relevant to this review.  Steve Lieber is able to be completely awesome whether it’s B&W or in color.  It was interesting only having read it in line work.  It became more interesting when I finally was able to read it in color because this book is beautiful.
I’m not going to sit here and go into spoiler details of the whole plot as I’m trying to be less of a jerk in an effort to make some friends lately.  The story is about the efforts of one forest ranger and her attempts to save a cave system in Marion, Kentucky from being opened to the public as a tourist attraction.  The book doesn’t shy away from showing both sides of the issue either.  It’s not the evil caving empire vs. the lone forest ranger.  The town is suffering so while opening the cave system would be a bad thing for the environment of the cave, it would save the town from going under.    It’s an interesting debate and the first issue does not shy away from it.  It also doesn’t paint anyone as being a true bad guy until the last couple of pages.  The end of the first issue ends with a bang leading to what Originally intrigued me about the book when I first saw it solicited.

The exploration.  And on this note Steve Lieber really takes it to a whole new level.  This is the Goonies with adults.  A chase scene through a huge cave with everything from bats to Stalagmites and stalagtites.  It’s a cave.  It’s dark, it’s dank, it’s dreary, but good lord it’s absolutely beautiful.

This book really shines in these scenes.   The 2 page spread in the second issue is an absolutely beautiful piece of art.  It’s also a fascinating dynamic the way the coloring shifts when the scene changes from outside the cave to inside.  Outside it’s a very simple color palette.  It’s brite and vibrant and everything looks alive.  In the cave scenes it’s pretty close to black and white with the only color being extremely muted uses of a monochromatic palette.  Ron Chan has done a fantastic job making the book pop.  He shows a remarkable ability to add to the art without taking anything away.  That there is the sign of a good colorist.  You add without taking away and the guys that can do that I want to see get full credit as to being part of the art team.  The day when good colorists are acknowledged on a front cover is the day I become a happy man.  If the quality of the coloring stays where it is I would fully implore someone to throw his name on the cover of later issues.  It’s different and it gives full credit where it is due.

The rest of the crew does a damn fine job as well.  Lieber does an amazing job at making the cave system both haunting and beautiful.  Every scene has something to gawk at.  I don’t want to describe the book as Whiteout in a cave as it is a completely different animal.  But I will say that if you loved his stuff on whiteout this will jump over the table and knock you on your ass as being some of the best work you have seen from him.  Simply stunning.  The sad thing is, this isn’t fanboy raving.  The book really does look that good.  The way the earth looks inside of a cave system looks how it should.  It looks alive and by god it’s brilliant.

All that’s left for me to bring up now is the script.  Jeff Parker continues to show the talent and ability he has brought to many books at Marvel.  The dialogue is crisp and the first issue did a great job in setting up the location and the characters of the story.  The second issue just takes it up a notch by giving you a group of bad guys who while they might be bad guys they might not necessarily all be murderously evil.  As I said before he shows a great ability to show layers to all the characters.  It’s weird to be 2 issues into the series and to have it feel like I know this town.  The people at the diner, The local shop owners.  They all get a little bit of characterization making you think about their predicament.  Maybe it would be best if the cave was opened as an attraction.  I mean it would save the town.  But at the same time It would kill the natural environment of the caves.  GAH!  Dilemma.

Seriously though Jeff Parker, Steve Lieber, and Ron Chan are spinning one hell of a yarn.  It’s kept me fascinated and staring at my computer screen through multiple reads.  If I can tell you one thing in conclusion it’s this.  Get up, go to your comic shop, grab your pull list and add this book to it.  NOW!!!  GO!!!  If your shop didn’t order any.  have them do an advance re-order for you.  It’s worth it.  Grab their July copy of previews, flip to page 132 and have them write down the diamond order code JUL090341.  The issue comes out on September 23rd.

Rating :

Stars out of 5 : 5.  It’s a fantastic combination of art and writing that shines through both issues.

Dry Slaps : 1.  Because damn it after reading the B&W preview I want a B&W variant of every issue so that I can have it both ways.  I also hate that I have to wait a month and a half to actualy have the physical copy in my hands.

GS Reviewer : Chris Hansbrough

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