Mysteries and birds galore, with gorgeous art to boot.
Issue #2 of Ray Fawkes’ Underwinter: A Field of Feathers contains beautiful artwork, new developments in the psychological horror plot, and hints at how this series relates to its predecessor. Overall, though, is it good?
As per usual for an Underwinter comic, this issue’s strongest feature is its artwork. Fawkes’ watercolors are just beautiful, and his page compositions are frequently fantastic. One particularly striking page consists mostly of a close-up on a lightning storm, with two smaller panels laid over-top of it. The asymmetry of the visuals effectively reinforces the different events’ emotional contrast. Fawkes also utilizes contrast well when it comes to his illustrations of birds, which are drawn in pen and ink over the watercolor backgrounds. This mixed media approach creates a sense that the birds’ presence is supernatural, even ominous. The issue’s only two-page-spread, depicting a woman halfway through transforming into a flock of birds, is perhaps the issue’s greatest moment.
Writing-wise, Fawkes does a solid job here. The dialogue and narration aren’t amazing, but they aren’t bad either. Everything is coherent, so even though there is a lot of information the reader isn’t privy to, that lack of knowledge feels intentional. The characters all have distinct voices, and the pacing is really well-done. No moment ever feels like it goes on for too long or not long enough, and the transitions throughout are quite smooth. Occasionally Fawkes’ narration rises to the high quality level of his artwork, with beautiful poetic language that transform this good issue into a great one, even if only briefly.
Unfortunately, that greatness is more the exception than the rule here. While the writing is never bad, it is disappointing in some fairly significant ways. As I mentioned previously, the reader is largely left in the dark when it comes to what’s actually happening. The amount of integral plot details left vague would likely be forgivable if this issue was viewed solely in context of itself, but as an installment in a larger series and universe it’s hard not to feel a bit nervous about it. The first volume of Underwinter was stellar up until its conclusion, when the lack of concrete answers to its various mysteries contributed to a massive sense of inadequacy.
In that larger context, it’s hard not to worry about the same thing happening here. Also disappointing is the fact that while this sequel series’ cast members have distinct voices, they’re not actually all that interesting. This issue thrives off the strength of its artwork, not its characters.
Overall, Underwinter: A Field of Feathers #2 is a good issue. Comic books are a half-visual medium, and the artwork here is fantastic, so that already counts for a lot. Add solid writing on top of that and you’ve got a good issue all around. With that said, the cons here are notable: the characters are hard to feel invested in and the massive air of mystery is alarming considering Underwinter‘s past track record. Nonetheless, this is a solid issue that’s well worth checking out.