EDITOR's NOTE: Underground #1 will be available September 23 and is currently available for pre-order.
Underground brings forth a compelling narrative of Park Ranger Wesley Fischer and her fight to save Stillwater Cave.
Jeff Parker’s script begins in Marion, a quiet city in Crittenden County, Kentucky, with news that the populace would like Stillwater Cave, a private cave, to become a public attraction. Since Stillwater is under state park jurisdiction the property must be excavated, and the towns entrepreneur Winston Barefoot is intent on spending a generous amount of money to achieve this. Meanwhile, Park Ranger Wesley Fischer disagrees with turning the cave into a tourist attraction, as she reminds the town the location is a “natural wonder” that serves as a home to precious animals and plants.
Initially, I dismissed Jeff Parker’s park ranger concept as hokey. Upon noticing familiar activity such as Wesley and her fellow ranger Seth ordering their usual scrambled eggs, bacon, and grits at a “mom and pop” diner, which appeared reminiscent of every other story taking place in a small town setting. Not to mention, Parker’s portrayal of Winston Barefoot as the overweight big-shot appeared to follow the small town stereotype as well.
It wasn’t until I nearly completed Underground that I was able to read in-between the lines, then I re-read the story, and realized this comic is a labor of love instead of a waste. Although the mom and pop diner is still a bit cliché, I understand this information is pertinent to the story. As well, Parker’s use of succinct dialogue and an upbeat tempo adds a beautiful dynamic to this mini-series. He has a knack of allowing his characters to express complete thoughts by using just a few words. For instance after sleeping with Seth, Wesley wakes up before him and contemplates, through a plethora of emotions, how to approach him concerning their one-night stand.. Once Seth awakes, Wesley freaks out remarking, “I…don’t know what to say or do.” While in bed, her fellow ranger smiles then replies with, “You wanna get some breakfast?” Not to mention the Boy Scout tone established at the beginning of the book transitions into a darker mood towards the end of this issue, allowing the excitement of this series to heighten.
As for the art, Steve Lieber utilizes a sort-of vintage Hana Barbera style. He uses a fair amount of close-up shots in his panels which allows the story to possess dramatic moments, similar to the close ups featured in the Speed Racer cartoon. Ron Chan’s choice of khaki, light green, and light red represent earth tone colors, which are appropriate for the story’s nature concept.
At the end of the day, Underground executes one of the most realistic concepts I’ve seen in a comic. This unique comic is certainly worth the money and it will be interesting to see how the next four issues of this mini-series progress.
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