Subterranean Cosmic/Survival/Body/Eco-Horror Collected: Unearth Volume 1 TPB
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. As victims of the illness are transformed in horrible ways, the task force traces the source of the disease to a nearby cave system—where they discover a bizarre, hostile ecosystem and a supernatural revelation from which they may never escape.
This subterranean nightmare is brought to you by writers Cullen Bunn (Regression) and Kyle Strahm (Spread) and rising star artist Baldemar Rivas!
Unearth Volume 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. It quickly becomes apparent the problem is much worse than a few goiters and some bloody tubby custard.
The team heads underground, and quickly fractures into two separate groups. Because that’s what you do, when you’re underground and get chased deep into a creepy cave by a giant gelatinous nightmare ooze monster. You split up.
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 a few pages later. Nastier than a twisted human blobfish oozing blood and tubby custard? Indeed.
There’s also a whole subplot that keeps popping up that I have no idea what to do with. Misdirection? Alternate universe? Who the hell is that child, and why is she so freakishly unsettling? Is it the blood? It’s probably the blood.
Speaking of undulating pink goo and blood spatter, Baldemar Rivas evidently wants to reacquaint you with your lunch. The art has a pulpy, mulched quality. Makes you want to bathe in hand sanitizer after flipping through these pages. Twice.
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… Repulsive. Beautifully, disturbingly repulsive.
There are clearly a lot of familiar set pieces in play in Unearth, but when you try to filter out the well worn 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 Bunn, Strahm, and Rivas have a little something else up their sleeves. They serve up a whole lot of shock value too easily. Don’t trust it for a second.
Unearth Volume 1, collects chapters #1-5, Image Comics, 08 January 2020. Story by Cullen Bunn & Kyle Strahm, art by Baldemar RIvas, letters by CRANK!, edited by Joel Enos, production and design by Ryan Brewer, editorial assistance on supplemental material by Matthew Mitchell.