"The Unsound #4" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by Cullen Bunn
Illustrated by Jack T. Cole
2017, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on September 20th, 2017
Ashli's first day at her new job is not going as expected at all. She started out as a nurse in a creepy psychiatric hospital. Now she's walking through the bowels of the building surrounded by broken mannequins with a paper plate mask over her face. This is the weirdest orientation ever.
I'm just going to put this right up front in this review: The Unsound scares the crap out of me. This comic reaches untold levels of horror that chill me right to my core. Writer Cullen Bunn and artist Jack T. Cole have taken me down a rickety staircase of madness and terror and it has only descended further with each new chapter. This issue is no different.
One of the strengths of The Unsound is how unnatural certain aspects of it are. These are subtle changes to reality that the human mind has trouble reconciling. In this case, it's the wide open nature of this deep basement level of the hospital. This should not exist, yet here it is. There are windows, yet they're underground.
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These ideas get coupled with basic human nature, like the fight-or-flight response, create something so friggin' scary. The opening pages feature one of the patients or nurses (I'm not sure which) desperately trying to escape through a little crack in the wall he just saw some bizarre two-dimensional children slither through. He wiggles his body into this crevice and when he finally gets partway through, he instantly regrets it, but it's too late. The creatures on the other side have seen him and they violently take him, sending streams of blood flying out of the other end, leaving nothing but a discarded shoe and a huge stain behind.
This subterranean world turns into a demented version of the hospital above, complete with a group therapy session. Chilling secrets are revealed as a creepy doctor with a birdcage-like mask guides everyone through the talk. Any one of these things would be unsettling on their own. Cole may have topped himself with the administrators who appear to be made partially from discarded mannequin parts and pure darkness.
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I'm struggling to describe some of the horrors contained within The Unsound because they are completely unique. These are creations that are unlike anything else I've ever seen. The closest comparison I can make is to Colder from Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra, which also plays with insanity in a big way. This book leans so hard into the madness that it's way past terror. It's on an entirely new level. It puts the stuff Lovecraft talked about to shame.
With all this crazy stuff running around, the thing that weirds me out the most is the paper plate mask, especially on Xerxes, the inmate that led them all down here. It's such a simple tool, but Xerxes has never been seen without it. I'm not confident that he has an actual face under the mask. If it were removed, there could be anything under there. It could be a normal man, a floating mass of eyeballs and facial features, or an endless abyss.
I said it earlier, but it bears repeating: The Unsound scares the crap out of me. There is nothing else like this book on the stands now or perhaps ever. It stands on its own as an unparalleled horror comic that will have you frightened to turn the page, yet eager to do it to see what happens next. You will not be able to put it down, partly because it might not let you.