The plot and horror thicken in this month’s Underwinter #4. Is it good?
Writer: Ray Fawkes
Artist: Ray Fawkes
Publisher: Image Comics
From a narrative standpoint, one of my favorite things about this issue is the amount of attention it pays to each member of the core cast. At this point, we’ve learned enough about the whole quartet to get a sense of what their thematic roles are, and no character feels inconsequential. Eleanor in particular stands out in this issue. I was a bit on the fence about her in previous issues, but she (perhaps more than anyone else) really dials up the horror here. There is a stark contrast in the visuals of her scenes early on versus later in the book, but both depict a compelling character who has come into her own in the midst of the series’ drama. She also serves as a nice foil to other cast members who, rather than embracing confidence and change, are finding themselves pushed to the brink.
It’s not just the members of the quartet who receive more development. This issue gives us Marantha’s most interesting moments of the series to date. His conversations with Corben give hints about the nature of the evil at work here, delivering some expositional information without ever feeling forced or stilted. The dialogue contains more concrete details about plot events than we’ve received thus far, but also leaves plenty to ponder. Creator Ray Fawkes has used a long-game approach throughout the series, and this issue’s momentum feeds off that build-up. After the last two issues’ slow descent into madness, Underwinter #4 puts its foot on the gas and lets the first gates of hell break loose.
Artistically, this issue is impressive as always. There are a lot of details, small and large, to be appreciated. On the simpler side of things, the way Fawkes paints hair is beautiful and full of personality. Characters’ body language and facial expressions are consistently well-done, making it easy to empathize with the cast. Fawkes also makes a number of stylistic decisions that link similar moments and scenes very well. The black-and-white stills of the quartet members as they perform, always sans words, are wonderful translations of music into a medium without sound.
There’s not much to dislike here. Some images don’t stand out as well as the rest, and some captions and lines of dialogue fall a bit flat. If one has a preference for fast-paced horror then they may not enjoy Underwinter, but that’s more a matter of taste than artistic merit. Small details here and there stop the issue from being perfect, but it still comes pretty close. I’m eagerly awaiting this arc’s last two issues.