Unearth is a new Image Comics series written by Cullen Bunn and Kyle Strahm, with art by Baldemar Rivas and lettering by Crank!. It follows a group of people investigating a bizarre plague in Mexico and gradually evolves into a true nightmare. Unearth aims right at the intersection of cosmic horror and body horror, so if you’re squeamish, this may be something you want to avoid. I’ve been impressed with Cullen Bunn’s horror output lately, with Harrow County being a particular favorite of mine. Between another Bunn horror book and the eye-catching colors on the cover, I was eager to find out what this series has to offer. While Unearth isn’t going to revolutionize the medium, it manages to be a solid horror adventure with a few interesting ideas.
The star of this book is really the art. Rivas does pencils, inks, and colors by himself, and he has an incredibly unique aesthetic. The colors in particular are a standout — sickly greens and reds dominate the palette and carry the book’s unique feel. From page 1, you see a red glow through a door and a green background, and right away you get the sensation that something is very wrong. The colors complement the similarly strong pencils and design work. It should be mentioned that a lot of this art is fairly gross body horror, so the aesthetic may not work for some. For those who are willing to get into this sort of story, there are some crazy looking monsters and creatures. The setting gets really wild as the book unfolds too, upping in scale and fear. All of these aspects come together to deliver a strong visual experience. Rivas accomplishes exactly what the book is going for and delivers something that really stands out in your mind.
The book’s story doesn’t quite live up to the art, though it’s passable for what’s going on here. The setup evokes classic horror movies like Alien or The Thing. A squad of military characters are placed into a hostile environment knowing nothing about what they’re getting into. Hell breaks loose, and our cast desperately tries to survive. It’s a tried and true formula, and if this sort of horror story works for you, I can safely say this is worth a read. Unfortunately, the characters are not particularly strong. A few get some hints of backstory, but none are memorable in personality. There’s enough focus on the horror and action here that it doesn’t break the book, but Unearth could have been much better in this respect.
While the character aspects of the book don’t quite hit, the book does build a horror narrative very well. As the story progresses, the situation gradually evolves from a strange plague into something much larger. Without spoiling anything, things escalate from a body horror virus scenario into some crazy cosmic horror territory. Cosmic horror is one of my favorite types of horror, and I feel the book does a great job building up to and gradually transitioning into that atmosphere. There are some small hints at the outset, but the book truly goes to some wonderfully bizarre places as the plot progresses, culminating in a pretty crazy ending. The book is continuing this year with another arc, and I am interested in seeing how the team will follow up on it.
Despite not quite knocking it out of the park, Unearth is another solid horror comic with a unique aesthetic. If the setup intrigues you, I think it’s worth a read. For those looking for that ’80s horror feel, you’ll hit that fix for sure. The art is great, the plot is interesting, and it manages to bring enough to the table that it doesn’t feel stale.
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