Saturday, April 3, 2010

Underground - Jeff Parker & Steve Lieber

On Valentines day I received an email from Steve Lieber. Last week I actually got off my figurative butt and read the comics he had sent a link for. I understand that this was probably not exclusively for me, and that perhaps everyone else in the world with a blog may have received the same thing, but guess what doesn't matter one bit to me...

Underground, a graphic novel in 5 issues, is written by Jeff Parker, and illustrated by Steve Lieber. If that alone doesn't get your interest up then you are reading comics wrong in my opinion. The really good news is that this comic is very good, and really pretty different as well. You would expect solid writing, good characterization and an underlying sense of humor to be found, given that Parker is a master of that. You would expect the art to be solid, with a good deal of comic realism without seeming heavy or stiff or overly photo referenced, etc., because Lieber is pretty great at that. You would expect those things, and you would not be disappointed. Where there is different for me, is that this is a very small, self-contained story set in a park in Kentucky, and it is, for lack of a better word, a thriller.

I use the word small here, but only to describe the relative scope and timeline of the story. It takes place within a day, and is mostly limited to a relatively closed environment. It has a solid beginning, middle, and end, and shows us for the most part, rather than just telling us, but pretty much everything is explained and resolved within the five issues.

This is a cinematic sort of work, and could make for an excellent movie. The sort of surprising thing is that as a comic that features two park rangers in a mostly unexplored cave system, running from a group of men that need to stop them from getting out of the caves, it works brilliantly as a comic.

I really don't want to spoil one bit of this thing, so I won't give away much more than what I have said already. This title does something that is really difficult in my opinion to do in comics. I have said before that horror is something that is difficult to pull off in this medium, but another thing that I think is equally difficult, perhaps more so, is suspense. This series, manages to create edge or your seat, uncomfortable suspense expertly as it draws toward the climax. As uncomfortable as it was, is a testament to the quality and abilities of the creators on this.

It accomplishes this in a story that contains no particularly extraordinary people or situations. There are people with specialized skills, and the awesome wonder and unpredictability of nature is present, but this is all real world stuff in the claustrophobic confines of a real world setting.

This is a title well worth picking up. The base concept is not really a new one, but this isn't exactly 'Die Hard in a Cave" either.

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