Collecting the first four print issues of the digital-first series by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari, The Bunker Volume 1 tells the story of five young people that discover a mysterious underground bunker with letters from there future selves explaining how they all have a hand in ending the world. Is it good?
The Bunker Vol. 1 (Oni Press)
If you ever listen to the Adventures in Poor Taste Podcast, you’ve probably heard me talk about the fact that I consider myself more of a character-oriented reader than a character-oriented one. That’s why many critically acclaimed books like East of West fail to appeal to me. No matter how strong the premise is or how talented the artists involved are, if I can’t connect to the characters, I can’t connect to the story.
But that’s not to say that plot is completely unimportant to me. On the contrary, there have been numerous times when I’ve picked up a book (whether comic or not) not just because the premise seemed strong, but because I wanted to know how the premise would affect the characters involved. The Bunker #1 was one of those cases.
Not that it’s anyone’s fault, but I’ve been kind of sick of both apocalyptic stories and time-travel stories lately. Luckily, The Bunker puts a fresh twist on both of those genre conventions. I wouldn’t call The Bunker a horror series, but it runs on a terrifying premise. The scary part isn’t that the world is ending, it’s the terror of discovering that the world is ending and it will be completely your fault– oh, and the only way to prevent it is by committing other less-terrible-but-still-pretty-terrible crimes. It taps into a universal fear of ourselves and the guilt that comes with it.
It may just be because the story is in its early stages, but so far, the execution is not quite as interesting as the concept. Part of that is due to Fialkov’s writing style, which is a bit more heavy-handed than I would have preferred. He works hard to be foreboding, frequently reminding us through narration and the letters that the characters receive that their situation is as dire as it could possibly be, but it’s not entirely necessary. He would have been better off trusting the strength of his premise to instill fear in the readers, and focusing more on how the situation causes the characters to think and behave. He does plenty of that, but hopefully future issues will be driven more by action and dialogue than narration.
I’m also not sure how I feel about Joe Infurnari’s art. On one hand, the scratchy, heavily lined intensity of the illustrations highlights the tense atmosphere of the story being told, but that same rough approach also works against the comic at times in terms of clarity. Infurnari’s coloring is also wildly inconsistent, the point where I wonder if the comic would have been better off in black and white. Perhaps there is artistic merit to his choice to wash characters entirely in pink at times, for example, but it often just comes across as sloppy. His lettering is a bit hard to read in the letters to the characters’ future selves, too, which is highly frustrating when these sections take up such a large portion of the comic.
It also should be noted, and this isn’t really anyone’s fault, but the seams of the digital-to-print transition show a little bit in the early pages of the book, as each page reads like two horizontally oriented digital comics stacked on top of each other. Luckily, this becomes less of a problem as the book goes on.
Is It Good?
While your mileage may vary depending on your literary and artistic preferences, anyone intrigued by the premise definitely ought to give this book a try.