Underwinter #1 introduces readers to a new monthly horror comic with part one of a story entitled “Symphony.” Is this series worthy of your attention?
Underwinter #1 (Image Comics)
Yes. There’s no point in dancing around the answer. This is likely to be among the best debut issues of the year. One need not get any further than the first page to realize that this series is going to be something special. The art in this issue is some of the best in any comic being published right now, and the plot applies horror elements to a unique premise and setting that feels completely fresh. Ray Fawkes, who is both the issue’s writer and artist, blends both the visual and the written word together into one final result that is breathtaking in its cohesion and quality.
Not only does Underwinter #1 have some of the best art of any comic in recent memory, it has some of the best writing as well. No text-box or line of dialogue feels wasted, as every word used furthers plot, character development, or tone. The fine-tuned script is elevated further by artistic choices that show a knowledge of the horror genre as well as an awareness of how to best utilize blank white space on a page. When thinking of horror, one quickly thinks of the dark, of the color black and obscured vision. This issue has pages that use a dark color palette, but they are in the minority. Many pages and panels incorporate large amounts of white space, and they do so in a manner that, rather than reeking of emptiness, creates a sensation of heaviness and pressure. There is horror to be found in static and white noise, and Fawkes conveys as much in a medium with no sound. He takes the two-dimensional and makes it loud. The frequent use of white and an otherwise light color palette also strengthens the panels and pages which use black and dark colors heavily. By making the darkness expected of a horror comic into the exception and not the norm, Fawkes defies expectations and makes his utilization of darkness more striking and effective.
Plotwise, the issue introduces us to a group of bickering musicians, who agree to put on an unusual performance for a rich and mysterious audience. I won’t say more about the plot, as this is a comic that one needs to read for oneself—without skipping ahead. Whatever you do, do not spoil the last page for yourself. This is a fantastic debut issue with strong, concise writing and artistic decisions that take advantage of the comic medium on a level that few artists do besides the likes of Bill Sienkiewicz. Don’t miss out on this issue.