Parker & Lieber’s Underground

September 8th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

ug_01_00_colorUNDERGROUND #1 (of 5)
32 PAGES / FC $3.50
Diamond Gem of the Month. Solicited in the July Previews, page 132.
In stores September 23rd, 2009. Order code: JUL090341

As WHITEOUT readies to hit theaters worldwide, artist STEVE LIEBER returns to the adventure genre with a new thriller, pairing with acclaimed writer JEFF PARKER (AGENTS OF ATLAS, EXILES)!

Park Ranger and avid caver Wesley Fischer is on a one-woman mission to stop Stillwater Cave from being turned into a tourist trap, but public opinion is not on her side. When locals begin blasting in the cave, Wes and a fellow ranger investigate – and a confrontation spirals into a deadly chase deep under the Kentucky mountains!

I first had the pleasure of reading Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber‘s Underground a couple months ago, when the first wave of review copies went out. I read it, went “Hey, that was pretty good! I should write about this!” and promptly forgot about it. When issue 2 came around… I did the same thing. Here’s a bit of True American History for you: I’m terrible.

Underground is definitely not terrible, though. In fact, it’s pretty good. Seth and Wes, two Park Rangers in Marion, Kentucky, work in and around Stillwater cave. That’s not going to be enough to hang a story on, so Parker and Lieber tossed a few complications into the mix. Winston Barefoot wants to turn the cave into a tourist attraction to bring some money into the community. Wes is a believer in the value of the area’s history, and stands in opposition to Barefoot, even though that also puts her at odd with the citizens of Marion who could really use that economic injection. Also? Seth and Wes just slept together, even though they’re coworkers, and that doesn’t help the fact that Seth doesn’t 100% agree with her.

Complications, right? When you toss in some unsavory types trying to stack the odds in their favor, you’ve got the makings of a good story.

Parker and Lieber do some great things with their storytelling, too. The first issue opens on the naked forms of Seth and Wes laying in a cave. Wes is awake and in silhouette, leaving her fairly mysterious, and looking at a fully lit Seth. As the panels progress, elements of her exploration gear slowly appear, like her gloves and helmet, and finally her full outfit. While this is going on, a newscast is playing in the background, directly on the art. After Wes finishes self-assembling, characters from the town, including Barefoot, appear as an overlay on the cave itself. It’s attractive and effective, and something I can’t recall executed this way before. I’ve seen newscasts and I’ve seen montages, but I haven’t seen them put together this way, or this well, before.

Lieber’s art throughout the rest of the issue is no slouch. The facial acting as Wes relieves the events of last night in her bathroom mirror (another well-done bit of storytelling) before practicing her first words to her new complication. Her final choice, “I… I don’t know what to say or do,” with a freaked out look on her face? Good choice on the part of Parker and Lieber.

The first issue does a good job setting up the town, its conflicts, and its citizens. The second gets right into it, turning into an action sequence, though not really, almost from jump. It’s essentially the tensest exposition slash history lesson you’ll read, as Seth and Wes have to move through the cave while avoiding the aforementioned unsavory types.

Underground is good stuff. The first issue hits on September 23rd, but if you’re really curious, you can grab a black and white PDF of the first issue on Undergroundthecomic.com. The actual comic, though, will be in color, with Ron Chan doing the honors. It looks great, with the cave scenes being properly dark and gloomy. His work on the morning after scene alone is worth the price of admission.

Also, the last page of issue two, with the white outlines? That’s some good comics right there.

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