"The Bunker: Volume 1" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Oni Press
Originally published as The Bunker #1 - #4
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Illustrated by Joe Infunari
2014, 128 Pages
Trade paperback released on August 19th, 2014
I've never buried a time capsule myself, but I do remember watching some kids do it on Nickelodeon once. With the advent of the Internet, nostalgia is something you can experience every day on sites like Buzzfeed, so why wait another twenty years before digging up a box you buried in the woods? If everyone felt that way, there wouldn't be a comic like The Bunker and the world would be worse off for it. The whole book gets going because five twenty-somethings venture out to the forest to bury their own time capsule only to discover a bunker filled with letters from their future selves explaining how they're responsible for the end of the world. No pressure, right?
Discounting for a moment the fact that these are grown men and women and not 4th graders with a time capsule, The Bunker comes in with one of the best hooks I've seen in recent comics. Writer Joshua Hale Fialkov wastes no time getting to the meat of the story. The actions of these people lead to the apocalypse. We don't know how or why, but it happens. Now they have a chance to prevent this, but at what cost? Will their friendships survive this endeavor? And how many lives will be lost in the process?
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The Bunker brings up a lot of ethical questions that are really tough to answer. It pulls some Spock-level logic on you, pointing out that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. If you knew that a terrorist attack was about to happen, killing hundreds of people, would you stop it? What if it had to happen in order for you to save the world? These kids are at the age where their whole lives are in front of them. They're just starting out in the real world, pursuing their hopes and dreams after completing college and now this dark destiny is thrust upon them. How can you fathom something like that at any age?
This would be a compelling story element on its own, but Fialkov adds so much to it with great character moments. These are five people that have been friends for ages. They have been through thick and thin and now they're getting these notes from the future saying that they will not only drift apart but possibly betray one another or worse. Suddenly they're all paranoid and jumpy about everything, second guessing their own actions and looking for hidden meanings in those of others.
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Joe Infurnari's artwork takes a little getting used to. It has a sketch-like quality to it that can often look like it's not quite finished. This, coupled with the fact that some characters or panels are left without color, can give The Bunker an uneven look. I found myself growing to really appreciate it by the end of the trade paperback. This is a time travel story. There are elements in the past, present, and future. A page may appear hazy, like you're seeing it from afar or through murky water or maybe you're witnessing this timeline changing due to the actions of the characters. It's already been altered due to the existence of the bunker itself.
Time travel is never an easy concept to work with. It can come across cool (e.g. Looper) or a complicated mess (e.g. Primer – I'm saying that as a fan of the film, but damn, can it be confusing). The Bunker sits somewhere in the middle, but it's clear that there is a lot of thought and care put into where the story is going. There's a specific purpose here and I can't wait to see how it pans out for these characters. The fate of the world rests in their hands and everything they do from now on has an effect on whether or not they destroy it or save it.