Overview of the Underground

I don’t get the opportunity very often to help preview new books. I don’t even know that I’d want it to happen very often — I seem to be busy enough just reviewing the durn things after they come out. Still, when you get an e-mail from seriously-fer-realz Jeff Parker, writer of Agents of Atlas, Mysterius the Unfathomable, and some of the best freakin’ issues of Marvel Adventures: The Avengers, saying, “Hey man, check this out”… Well, your self-control kinda goes and sits in the corner and giggles for a while.

So anyway. Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber got a new Image comic coming out around September 23 called “Underground.” As far as I can tell, it’s not a superhero comic, or sci-fi, or fantasy, or any of the usual sub-genres — just plain adventure fiction.


Here’s their official description of the story:

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 got to read the first couple issues, and they’re really good — Lieber’s a great artist, Parker’s a great writer, so it’s not surprising that they’d create something really outstanding together. It’s tense and suspenseful, and the cavern setting really helps heighten the claustrophic feelings you get from the story — these characters are people who are stuck in deep, dark, terrifying places, in more ways than one. And I like that the bad guys aren’t melodramatic, mustache-twirling supervillains — they’re unethical, and they’re criminals, but they’ve gotten into trouble because they’re making dumb decisions, not because they’re Pure Unholy Evil. In other words, the characters, both the good guys and the bad guys, are being treated like they’re real people, not cartoons, and that’s a very good thing.

And Lieber’s art, while certainly pointing up the menace and fear that can come from being trapped in cramped, pitch-dark places hundreds of feet underground, also makes it clear that caverns also have some of the most beautifully eerie scenery you can find anywhere on the planet.


Part of the reason this appeals to me is the cavern aspect — for most of us who’ve lived in West Texas and the Lubbock area, one of the best known caverns in the world is only a few hours away, and while Carlsbad Caverns National Park is best known for its developed cave, complete with electric lights, smooth walkways, pre-recorded tour guide, and underground restaurant, it also has a number of undeveloped caves in the park, with no lights, no concrete paths, rope bridges, and a few areas where you have to crawl through extremely narrow passageways. When I was younger, I got to go on one of those undeveloped cavern tours, and it was one of the most affecting experiences of my life. It wasn’t enough to turn me into a caver, but it was certainly the type of thing you never, ever forget.

And aside from the gunplay, explosions, and constant threat of danger, “Underground” got my nostalgia pumping for those undeveloped cavern tours. If you’re healthy enough to go on long, strenuous hikes deep under the earth, you should definitely consider taking a weekend to enjoy some of these ranger-guided rustic cave tours. But even if you’re not, you can still enjoy Parker and Lieber’s “Underground” this September.

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