This is much more than a comic book about a cave. This is a comic book about standing up for a cause. Wesley Fischer believes that Stillwater Cave should be left as is, not turned into a tourist attraction. The townsfolk of Stillwater Cave are supporting the economic promises made by Winston Barefoot. Those promises all hinge on making the Cave a must-see destination. In the current economic climate, it is not too hard to imagine just what those residents of Marion are thinking and feeling. The fact that there is a potential economic boon waiting to be exploited has them all in a frenzy. Unfortunately, that frenzy swirls around Wesley Fischer. She is determined to preserve the cave, no matter the cost. That cost, judging from the last page of this issue, turns out to be pretty steep and quickly climbing even higher.
I went into this comic with no expectations whatsoever. I had met Steve Lieber at the Mid-Ohio Comicon back in 2007 as he was just beginning to work on this story. I've kept an eye out for it since then. I knew this much about the book going in: it involves park rangers and caves. While that may not sound overly exciting (save for the twelve Cave Carson enthusiasts) to a standard comic book reader, neither does the basic premise of Lieber's (with his old pal Greg Rucka) "Whiteout," yet most of us have read –- and thoroughly enjoyed –- that book.
"Underground" is not "Whiteout," nor does it try to be. Parker adds a different style to this book. This is a fast-paced read that quickly establishes the plot, protagonist, and problem. At first blush, the book looks dense and, due to the subject matter, doesn't seem flashy, but the story quickly involves the reader. We meet Wesley and see her at her best, worst, and most uncomfortable moments all in the course of twenty-two pages. Parker made me care about this character. Lieber jumped in and made me want to read more now. Ron Chan (on colors) came along and added subtlety, emotion, and depth to this story.
It's good to see creators having a go at ideas that are wholly their own. They are able to put passion into it, nurture it, and share it with us. Creator-owned books like this take the biggest risk and share a piece of the creators with us. Successful books, like this one, make you think, make you question and make you care. Just a you are a comic book fan, Steve or Jeff have a rabid interest in caves and natural wonders. My editor, Augie, touched on this title in his column back in July.
This book may not be on the top of your pull list, but you should do yourself a favor and check it out at least. You can even give yourself a peek at the book for free on the "Underground" site. This may only be the first twenty percent of the story, but it establishes the characters boldly and drops us into the situation alongside them. Parker and Lieber have got me hooked and waiting for more.