Underworld Graphic Novel
Writer: Lovern Kindzierski
Artist: GMB Chomichuk
Letterer: Ed Brisson
Editors: Alexander Finbow, Luisa Harkins
Publisher: Renegade Arts Entertainment
Review by Josh Rose
Renegade Arts Entertainment has published several books with themes on mental health: books like Look Straight Ahead, Dust Ship Glory, and now Underworld. Hector Ashton believes himself to be the legendary hero Odysseus, trapped in the underworld. After escaping the psych ward, and swimming out of the Red River, Hector finds himself in the Club district of Winnipeg, Manitoba (what he believes to be Hades). Like Odysseus, Hector’s quest through the underworld is to ultimately get back to his family. Meanwhile, Winnipeg police are looking for Hector and a drug dealer with connections to Hector’s past.
Kindzierski has captured the essence of Odysseus in Hector. He has Hector react to modern Winnipeg as accurately as one can imagine Odysseus would react. Odysseus was never taken to the police station after his men ate food in the middle of Safeway. Kindzierski has Hector go through a process of healing while he wanders the streets of Winnipeg. While he talks to different people about their problems and views them as mythological characters, he becomes closer to redemption and his family.
Gregory Chomichuk’s art consists of a unique graphic style made up of a photography and linework. I like how Chomichuk often mixes traditional Greek art in with the photographs–for example, an image of Odysseus is shown on the back of Hector’s jacket. With using photography for this style of art, Chomichuk has to photograph real people, and Kindzierski was chosen to represent Hector.
In terms of lettering, Ed Brisson uses a different font for Hector than everyone else, and he uses it right up until the very end. He doesn’t change the font for Hector, because mental health is a process and one night escaping the psych ward and wandering downtown Winnipeg won’t cure that. Like Odysseus’ story doesn’t end when he makes it home to his family, neither does Hector’s with his mental health.
The Verdict: Buy it.
Underworld is a modern retelling of Homer’s Odyssey through the lens of mental health. It’s not required that readers have knowledge of Greek Mythology and the Odyssey, but it would make the story more enjoyable. In fact, it has inspired me to go read the Odyssey for the first time.