As a prop, a body is a terrible thing to waste in horror. In Image Comics’ Unearth series, writers Cullen Bunn and Kyle Strahm, with artist Baldemar Rivas, and letterer Crank!, used the body in every grotesque way they could in issue number one. Now, in Unearth #2 their body horror style, reminiscent of the contortion and body morphing of Hitoshi Iwaaki’s Parasyte, takes the passenger seat as they develop the lore of the disease turning people into writhing balls of skin.
Last issue, the task force that we’re following, made up of Dr. McCommick, Dr. Reyes, and Lt. Morris, uncover the dangers in a small Mexican village and the reality that the disease they came to confront is way worse than they were led to believe. Ending the issue, we see them donning hazmats suits and heading into the belly of a cave only to be confronted with a giant creature.
This issue, what began as the cave with walls etched with ancient symbols is now a veiny field of flesh as half the team works to find an escape and the others try to leave the way they came. But, the curiosity and ignorance of the team bring out the worst for the crew as they try to survive the dark.
The writing in Unearth #2 from Bunn and Strahm builds a world around the diseased land, making the cave shut off to the world a host of its own ecosystem and blending established science fiction moments of discovering alien life. There is a curiosity in the dialogue, well, until the characters’ fear comes. The team’s disbelief slowly morphs to all-out fear as the environment itself and not just the creatures in it begins to turn on them.
The star of Unearth #2 is the same as the first one, Riva’s art. The pages are dark, damp, and completely claustrophobic with one section of the team who are attempting to find a way out after being trapped by a monster attack in the last issue. The walls are alive and as they go deeper, the tension only intensifies. On the other hand, the pages that feature the part of the team attempting to dig themselves out the way they came in are bathed in greens and yellows, the go-to colors to depict toxicity. The radioactive color palette when coupled with Rivas’ design of the creatures, seemingly inspired of face-huggers, maintain a level of science fiction horror that is unique to the series, without being derivative of others in the genre.
While I was hooked on the first issue’s body horror, I am sucked into the world that the creative team is building around it. While the disease is still in our minds as we flashback to the Mexican town, the focus of Unearth #2 is set solidly on creating the world it came from, which brings the series beyond body shock and into a carefully crafted narrative.
This issue, we also see glimpses into Dr. McCommick’s life before Mexico. A young girl haunts her, but like any good story the reasons why are left unanswered as to focus on the main plot first, teasing what’s to come from the character and distinguishing him against the others as important to the narrative.
Overall, Unearth #2 is another great issue in an already amazing series. Since this issue is light on the grotesque – well, outside the pustules on the walls – I’m expecting more body horror as the series continues and we start to spend more time with the diseased. It’s safe to say I’m strapped in for this ride and I can’t wait for issue three.
Unearth #2 is available now in comic book stores everywhere.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.