Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews—now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘Unearth’ #1, out July 10 from Image Comics.
THIS ADVANCE REVIEW OF ‘UNEARTH’ #1 IS SPOILER-FREE.
by Sara Mitchell. Unearth is a story of unwanted visitors. Its narrative follows three perspectives during a mysteriously gruesome, infectious infestation in the small town of Mitlan Itza, Mexico—that of the soldier, the scientist and the local community. The people of Mitlan Itza are as much a host to the foreign military presence as their individual bodies are hosts to this new disease. Rebel forces are unifying and tensions are rising. At the height of these tensions, we find representatives of each perspective trapped in a cave below the town, along with an older, unanticipated presence that’s been brewing beneath the surface all along.
Without going too high school english class on the whole thing, I think there’s a really exciting metaphorical world beneath the surface of all of these factions of characters. Within our trio of perspectives, we see soldiers fulfilling the perspective of brute, insensitive masculinity, the scientists expressing curious, nurturing femininity, and then the rebels and their community being connected to undisturbed nature. Well, before the story begins we could have said undisturbed, but due to the infestation of disease, soldiers, and scientists, they are rightfully disturbed. We see these three forces clashing every day in the media, and right before our very eyes. The creators of Unearth are on some of the most fertile grounds for conflict and horror you could possibly find.
This story would not succeed without the imagination of artist Baldemar Rivas. Rivas conjures the disgust and disfiguration necessary for Unearth to convey its message. The destruction that the unnamed infection wreaks on the bodies of its hosts will invoke your natural instincts and have you distancing yourself from the page, and then possibly sneaking a reluctant second look, like an odor so bad you gotta smell it one last time before cursing someone else to take a whiff.
The world on the surface is dull greys and browns. It suits the tediousness that some of these characters seem to be feeling in their lives. They have their jobs, they report to their jobs, they do what they’re told. Nothing glamorous. Once circumstances lead our characters into a cave to carry out a mission, however, we finally find color and illumination. It isn’t until you’re underground, in what seems to be inescapable darkness, that the faintest light can be an absolutely stunning beauty. But this wouldn’t be a Cullen Bunn joint without some monsters. In Unearth, while the horror above ground is unpalatable bodily disfigurement, underground it glows. It’s beautiful, and captivating, and… might… not… even be a monster? Do I pet it or do I kill it?
In its first issue, Unearth puts into position this question—when is it reasonable to be fearful of something different or foreign? There is always a source of tension between the factions trapped within the cave, and everyone has vastly different responses to this unfamiliar environment they’ve found themselves in. Unearth wants us to walk uncomfortably on the line between healthy defensiveness, healthy curiosity, and that fear of being one of the idiot bugs who got too close to that nice, pretty buzzing light.
As we journey beyond issue #1, I expect we’ll find ourselves questioning the cultural elements that shape not just our fears, but the ways in which we cope with those fears. Even more compelling will be seeing how far these creators can stretch their clearly masterful capabilities of serving us beauty alongside absolutely sickening horror.
Image Comics / $3.99
Written by Cullen Bunn & Kyle Straham.
Art by Baldemar Rivas.
Letters by Crank!
6.5 out of 10
‘Unearth’ #1 hits stores July 10. You can pre-order it now. (Diamond Code: MAY190025)
Check out Kyle Strahm’s variant cover to ‘Unearth’ #1, courtesy of Image Comics!