So far, Underwinter: A Field of Feathers has been a beautifully illustrated, if narratively unsteady sequel series to its predecessor. Issue three establishes some more concrete details as far as the story goes, but does it do so successfully? Is this issue good?
Unfortunately, this issue’s narrative developments are handled in such a way that I almost wish they hadn’t occurred. The recap page summarizes the past two issues’ events in a way that makes more sense than the issues themselves. As a result, there are several aspects of the plot that are essentially revealed via recap rather than conveyed in the work itself. For a series so rooted in mystery and suspense, that feels like a major cop-out. Not only is the reader robbed of the joy of uncovering details organically, the story feels flimsy and incapable of explaining itself clearly without word-of-God-esque assistance. It’s just really disappointing.
This issue’s drawbacks aren’t limited to the way it delivers plot information. The artwork also has an unusually high number of flaws given the series’ past track record. One of this issue’s most pivotal scenes depicts a conversation between Joel and his two children, Rose and Felix. Some panels in this scene zoom out on the car as it heads down a road, and it becomes unclear which character is speaking when. This confusion extends even to the panels with clearer shots of the car’s interior. Rose and Felix look incredibly similar, and it wasn’t until the scene was about halfway through that I realized both characters were speaking or which one was which.
With all of that said, this issue isn’t horrible, or even outright bad. There are a lot of great things happening here. Though several plot details are explained in an unsatisfying manner, the story’s pace has enjoyably quickened as a result. It’s easier to understand the narrative arc’s trajectory now that more of the narrative is actually coherent. The scenes pertaining to Liberty Investments are among the issue’s best, and their hints at plot connections between Underwinter‘s first and second volumes create a nice sense of continuity between the two. There are also also several instances where creator Ray Fawkes’ phenomenal artistic talents are well-displayed. His adeptness at rendering nature imagery and landscapes is particularly evident here, with beautiful grass in the opening pages and gorgeous skylines later on. As always, when Fawkes is on artistically, he’s really on.
Overall, Underwinter: A Field of Feather #3 is not a bad issue. Unfortunately, it’s not a good issue either. It dooms itself from the very start with a recap page that tells more about the story than any of the series’ actual contents. Add multiple instance of unclear visual storytelling on top of that, and there’s just too much going wrong to make this issue recommendable. That’s not to say that there’s not greatness present — the series’ pacing has improved a bit, and there are some gorgeous visuals — but if you’re not already thoroughly invested in the Underwinter mythos then I would pass on this issue.