Due in comic shops on September 23rd from Image Comics is a new five issue series by Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber called Underground. The creators describe the story as: “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!” That gives you the broad strokes, but there is plenty more to the story in this first issue.
The story begins as Wesley wakes from a dream to the morning after a one-night stand with her co-worker Seth, and all the awkwardness that entails. From there we get the two sides of the conflict that frames the book; Wesley wants the Stillwater cave left as is, untouched, while the majority of the citizens of the town, most prominently Winston Barefoot, want to see it turned into a tourist attraction in order to boost their sagging economy. Seth winds up in the middle, in more ways than one, as he can see that both sides of the argument have valid positions. When some of Barefoot’s men decide to get creative with dynamite the situation becomes literaly explosive and potentially deadly for at least one of the characters. While this issue definitely feels like it is setting the stage for the following issues, it really is a joy to read and leaves you anticipating the next issue.
Jeff Parker’s dialogue is terrific and flows in very natural way. All the conversations feel real and unforced. There is no needless exposition and all the pieces of the story fall in to place through character interactions or small news reports. Enhancing the wonderful words is Steve Lieber’s superlative artwork. This could possibly be his best work to date. His drawing style is clean and somewhat retro while feeling brand-new at the same time. I’m convinced that no one else can draw such dead-on and scene-perfect facial expressions as adequately as Lieber. There is one page with Wesley and Seth driving that is mostly dialogue free, yet what each of them is feeling is written all over their faces. There aren’t many writers that would feel confident enough to give their artist as much words-free reign as Parker gives Lieber. In this case it only raises the quality of the book and speaks to each creators’ mastery of their craft. All of this is embellished by Ron Chan’s brilliant and sometimes unexpected coloring choices. You’ll want to look at each page carefully so as not to miss a thing as the art and colors are just as meaty as the written word.
Bottom line, get Underground added to your pull list immediately or have your local comic shop reserve you a copy if you don’t have one. This is the way comic books should always be done; sharp dialogue, crisp art and dynamic colors all mixed in equal, complimentary parts. In case I’m not getting my point across, this is a five-star, two thumbs up kind of book that you really don’t want to miss. Underground #1 is my favorite single issue so far this year and I’m confident it’ll be yours.