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Chris Gooch

Top Shelf Productions

Under-Earth sets us in a dark and unruly prison with no walls. It’s just a deep pit filled with a failing society based on brutality and knee deep in garbage. We have two story threads here. A young man, Malcolm, is accused of an undefined crime. As a newly minted convict, he has no idea what his punishment is. The jailers push him out of the helicopter and into this pit. He acquires some loosely associated “friends” and learns the ways of this depressing world. Over in another corner, young couple Ele and Zoe engage in “missions” to execute petty thievery or minor terrorist activity. They hope to collect enough credits to buy their way out. They are good at their jobs, but when the young man cuts his leg, things look like the floor is falling out for them as well. These are the success stories. The less lucky spend their lives exploring a pit of sewage, hoping to find a useful item: a bit of copper, a working pen, maybe a screwdriver. It’s like American Pickers set in a sewage processing plant.

It’s hard to imagine a better graphic novel deal than this enormous post-civilization epic. At over 500 pages and five to ten hand inked images per page, there’s enough images here to make a decent animation. The tone is plenty dark, but that’s what people want in these dark days. Under Earth is a sort of prison / post civilization saga, sort of like fencing in all the gun nuts but taking away their weapons. Most of the populace walks around in prison stripes, while the elite wear black bodysuits and carry weapons. Free-form martial arts battles to the death make Saturday nights a little lighter, and a big boss makes money by running the fights, deciding the betting odds, and fixing his own fights. I suspect the author is commenting on modern society by expanding things to ridiculous size, and it works. Sympathy is a rare commodity here, and festering wounds won’t heal the lifestyle. This is a story for your darkest times. I recommend hiding all your sharp objects before reading.

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