"The Unsound #2" 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 July 5th, 2017
After having the oddest first day ever at her new job at the Wiermont Psychiatric Hospital, somehow things get weirder for Ashli. The patients are getting restless and there is a whole lot of bloodshed. The original descriptions of The Unsound promise dark magic and monsters. We get a glimpse of what that might entail with this chapter and it's mind-blowing.
This issue is split into two threads that later come together. Ashli is recounting her experience to Dr. Kearney, detailing the three strange female patients that accosted her. Meanwhile, there's a riot building among the patients that comes to a head in a terrifying fashion. The former is an unsettling account, both due to the nature of the encounter between Ashli and these bizarre patients, as well as Kearney's reluctance to believe her. He seems eager to sweep this under the rug and tries to dismiss Ashli's story. He even pushes some pills on her to help her relax.
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Writer Cullen Bunn plays with one of my favorite horror tropes in The Unsound, which is the idea of not being able to trust one's mind. Ashli is sure she saw these three patients, yet she has some doubts after speaking with Kearney. She also sees and hears things that no one else seems to witness. Is she crazy too? Is Kearney messing with her? These questions increase the terror of the book subtly, allowing it to get under your skin over time instead of relying on big jump scares.
These patients that Ashli meets are ghostly apparitions. They almost seem to be floating a foot or two off the ground as they approach her. One looks like she's missing the bottom half of her jaw. Another is essentially a skeleton with hair. Neither holds a candle to the main one, who appears to have gnawed her fingers down to bloody stumps. Her face and arms are covered in blood. Everything about her is disturbing.
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Just as disturbing is the patient Xerxes, who always appears in the strangest moments and covers his face with a paper plate with a face drawn on it. Everything about him is creepy and his very existence is enough to make you lean away from him, like you don't want to get too close. I'm curious if there's a connection between him and Kearney based solely on the fact that their faces – or in Xerxes' case, his plate face – are similar in size and shape. They're both perfect circles.
Where the first issue of The Unsound works in the horror in small ways, building up the tension over time, this one makes a hard turn into crazy town. If the comic were a roller coaster, the first issue would have been the climb up the big hill and this one is the first terrifying drop. We're plummeting down into absolute madness with crazed patients brandishing razor blades closing in on us. Now hold on tight because the first loop is coming up.