Roger’s Comic Ramblings: Let’s Review – Image’s Underground by Parker & Lieber

Underground cover

Underground cover

by Roger Ash

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed anything here, so let’s take a look at a graphic novel I read recently; Underground by Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber. This book collects the 5-issue Image miniseries plus the original short story starring Underground‘s protagonist, Wesley Fischer, by Lieber from the Four Letter Worlds anthology, and a look at how the art was produced for the series.

Underground is the first collaboration between friends Jeff Parker(Hulk, Thunderbolts) and Steve Lieber (Whiteout, Civil War: Front Line). The story stars park rangers Wesley Fischer and Seth Ridge. Wesley is working hard to keep Stillwater Cave in Marion, Kentucky natural. A local businessman, Winston Barefoot, sees money in the cave and wants to turn it into a tourist destination. He has much of the town on his side as work is scarce and his plan would create jobs and bring in money. Yet things are at a standstill until there is a decision from the Parks Commission, so Barefoot decides to force the issue and things go badly. In short order, Wesley and Seth find themselves trapped in the cave trying to avoid Barefoot’s hired thugs and dealing with the natural threats of the cave itself. All the while, people on the outside attempt to launch a rescue.

There’s a lot to like in this book, but the main reason I think it works so well is because of Wesley Fischer. She is very smart and capable, yet she is no superwoman. She also has moments of fear, anger, and doubt. In other words, she’s a real person and one I found very engaging. Her interactions with Seth ring true and the quiet moments between them are some of my favorite in the book. One of the real strengths of this book is that it is filled with real people and the motivations that drive them are ones that the reader can understand. For the most part, the biggest challenge any of the characters face is the cave.



Steve Lieber’s art is perfectly suited to this type of story. As his work on Whiteout showed, he excels at portraying human drama. But he is equally adept at action sequences. A favorite scene of mine is when Wesley and Seth fight their pursuers while they’re all hanging from ropes over a chasm. This scene could easily become very confusing, yet his storytelling guides the reader through an exciting and understandable fight. Ron Chan’s colors also aid in guiding the viewers eye. In fact, Chan does a nice job with the color throughout the book, with the scenes in the cave being particularly striking.

The environmental issues in the story are presented evenhandedly by Parker with both sides getting their due, which suits such a complex issue well, yet it never becomes preachy. This is the first time since Paul Chadwick’s Concrete that I’ve seen the topic handled in such a realistic fashion. But the environment is not the main focus of the story as this is, at heart, a gripping adventure story. The dialog pops and the action will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The biggest compliment I can give Parker and Lieber is, at the end, I found myself wanting to read more stories featuring Wesley and Seth. They made me like and care about these characters. While Underground is self-contained, it seems to me that they left the possibility open to tell more stories with Wesley and Seth. I, for one, hope they seize that opportunity.

Now, go read a comic!


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