Survive Or Die Trying: Unearth #1

by Brendan M. Allen

When a flesh-warping disease ravages a remote village in Mexico, a scientific task force travels to the inhospitable area to investigate the contamination. Tracing the source of the disease to a nearby cave system, the team discovers a bizarre, hostile ecosystem and a supernatural revelation from which they may never escape. This new subterranean nightmare is brought to you by writers Cullen Bunn (Regression) and Kyle Strahm (Spread), and rising-star artist Baldemar Rivas!

Unearth #1 sets the pace right away with a retch inducing sequence at a small hospital in Mitlan Itza. The creative team wants you to know, straight out the gate, whatever we’re dealing with here, it’s absolutely revolting. A scientific task force has been dispatched to assess the severity of a mysterious outbreak. The first big turn comes on the fourth page, and things continue going south from there.

Cullen Bunn and Kyle Strahm tag team the script in this one. That first big reveal is obviously not the huge kicker, since it happens almost immediately and is even included in the preview pages. There’s a bigger, nastier, gooey surprise in later pages. Nastier than a twisted human blobfish oozing blood and tubby custard? Indeed. 

Speaking of that pink goo, Baldemar Rivas evidently wants to reacquaint you with your lunch. There are the obvious gross out moments, with the twisted bodies and gelatinous monsters, but then there are these little details that are just “off” enough to unsettle. General Kul’s periodontitis, his oddly misshapen head and hyperhidrosis… Gross. Beautifully, disturbingly gross.

There are clearly a lot of familiar set pieces in play in Unearth, but when you try to separate out the familiar tropes, you’ll find something else in the mix. Obviously, we’re dealing with a cosmic/survival/body/eco-horror with some military action, but those immediate pops suggest Bunn, Strahm, and Rivas have a little something else up their sleeves. They served up a whole lot of shock value too easily. I don’t trust it for a second.

Unearth #1, Image Comics, released 10 July 2019. Story by Cullen Bunn and Kyle Strahm, art by Baldemar Rivas, letters by Crank! Covers available by Baldemar Rivas, Kyle Strahm, and Greg Smallwood.

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