Lunatics, Monsters, Secret History, Black Magic & Heinous Experiments – The Unsound SC

by Brendan M. Allen

Eisner Award-nominated writer Cullen Bunn (Harrow County, The Empty Man) is joined by brilliant newcomer artist Jack T. Cole to present a surreal psychological horror series that will have you questioning what it is to truly be crazy…
Ever since she was little, all Ashli wanted was to help people. It’s why she went to nursing school, and it’s why she signed up for the vacant position at Saint Cascia, despite the psychiatric hospital’s less-than-sterling reputation.
But when strange occurrences begin in the midst of her very first day on the job, Ashli is forced to escape through the labyrinthine bowels of the asylum to not only help her fellow nurses, but to save herself.

One of the biggest challenges facing freshly graduated nurses is securing a position at a reputable health care facility. More often than not, new grads have to suck it up and put in their dues, working the worst shifts at the worst hospitals in order to gain experience and tenure that they can leverage into better jobs. The Unsound centers on Ashli, a new grad nurse who actually sought out a position that no one else wanted, because she’s young, naïve, and altruistic enough to believe she can make a real difference in a broken system.

Founded in 1816, Saint Cascia ran continuously as an asylum until budget cuts forced its closure in the 1980’s. Recently re-opened, the asylum suffers from improper staffing ratios, overpopulation, and general disrepair. That combination is already a nightmarish situation. Then there’s that whole other functioning asylum in the bowels of St. Cascia, run by the inmates themselves, where the laws of reality don’t seem to apply.

Cullen Bunn flexes his horror muscles in this one. No shocker if you’ve read much of his previous body of work. The story begins as a slightly uncomfortable walk through a creepy old building and steadily builds tension with each chapter through a series of increasingly disturbing reveals.

Run-down and abandoned buildings, hospitals and asylums in particular, are nothing new in horror. Bunn takes a well-worn setting and ups the ante with literal layers of unease, paranoia, and insanity. Part of what makes this story so effective is trying to peel back Ashli’s biases and the patients’ perception to sort out what’s actually happening at any given point. There’s no clear indication whose perspective the tale is being told from. It could all be a psychotropic drug induced hallucination. Right up to the final reveal, you’ll be questioning just how much is real, and what to buy into.

The Unsound’s artwork by Jack T. Cole works really well with Bunn’s script. The deceptively simple linework and bright colors are disarming. The light visual tone sucks you into a false sense of security. The aesthetic isn’t what readers would normally associate with such disturbing material, and that’s the brilliance. It’s a cerebral move that fits with the general sense of disquiet.

If you’re already a fan of Bunn’s other horror titles, this one is a no-brainer. If you’re a fan of the horror/suspense genre and are looking for a deeply unsettling, unpredictable experience, The Unsound is here for you, ready to shake you to your core.

The Unsound SC, published by Boom! Studios, collects the entire six-issue limited series, released 09 May 2018. Written by Cullen Bunn, cover and illustrations by Jack T. Cole, letters by Jim Campbell.

%d bloggers like this: