Writer & Artist: Ray Fawkes
A review by Anelise Farris
Underwinter #2, titled “Symphony, Part Two,” continues the new monthly horror series written and drawn by Ray Fawkes. In last month’s issue readers were introduced to a quartet of classical musicians: Eleanor, Kendell, Stephanie, and Corben. These musicians, presumably in their twenties, are taking whatever jobs they can to pay the bills. Making a career as a professional musician is a challenging task, so what if someone came along and offered to pay $10,000 per musician in exchange for a few hours play at a party? This quartet quickly agrees, and it turns out to be a party that is a whole lot more like an occult ritual.
Now, in Underwinter #2, the comic follows the lives of each of the quartet members after the party. The issue begins with elevated diction and a quote that feels like it was taken from a text from the Romantic era. From here, the issue is divided by each of the musicians: a few pages devoted individually to Kendall, Stephanie, Corben, and Eleanor. What quickly becomes apparent is that something was stirred that night, and both these individuals and the world at large are at the mercy of some dark magic. We don’t know what this curse is yet, or how it is going to play out in the lives of the musicians and the increasingly violent world around them. We do know, however, that the musicians are hired to play again, so more horror is certainly in store.
As with issue #1, the art in Underwinter #2 is gorgeous: soft, abstract, and haunting. And this pairs so well with the elegant horror and poetic writing that Fawkes achieves. As visually stunning as the comic is however, I do have a few questions about how various contrastive elements are working (or not working). On the one hand, there is such an ethereal, soft, abstract style to the art. Then, on the other hand, there is the heavy black and bright red font choice for the title and the subheadings. I assume that this is playing more on traditional horror conventions and asking us to reconcile them, but aesthetically I found the combination disagreeable. Similarly, because the art is so abstract, sometimes it is difficult for the dialogue to feel “real” or believable. As such, the art pairs much better with the text when the text itself is more abstract or figurative. Overall though these are just minor points, and the comic as a whole is an impressive testament to the fact the horror can be equally sophisticated and unsettling.
Buy it! Underwinter #2 is graceful, stylish horror at its best—with a compelling storyline and art that requires you to linger on each page, this is one that will appeal to a variety of readers.