Having read the collected issues of the (first?) story arc of Cullen Bunn’s The Unsound, I’m ready for the second part to begin. It’s full of the kind of nightmarish abstractions that I love, and Bunn, along with artist Jack T. Cole, mine the concept of “What scares us most is the unknown” while building a fully fledged concept that could go on for years and never lose my interest.
It’s Ashli Granger’s first day working at Saint Cascia’s Psychiatric Hospital, and she’s thrown into the deep end. It’s understaffed and, being ten minutes late, she’s left without much to grab hold of. She bounces around from patient to patient, situation to situation, and then things get really weird, really fast. At first, one assumes it’s a haunted psych ward, as Ashli starts hearing and seeing things that aren’t there, but then there are the three men in suits that walk shoulder to shoulder and are called the “Administration.” Then, there’s the John Doe (known as Xerxes) who holds a smiling paper plate over his face, and then the three women who are covered in blood, and then the razor blades…lots and lots of razor blades.
The story quickly descends into a fever dream of madness, as Ashli and the other hospital workers have to flee a riot by literally stepping into a mirror world of madness, where everything we see and know as the rules of reality are tossed out the window for whatever bit of chilling, macabre insanity Bunn and Cole want to throw at us.
It turns out Ashli is more connected to the mythology of this place and world than even she wants to believe. I don’t want to give away too much, but the journey to all of Ashli’s answers is the most Clive Barker-like journey I’ve partaken since the first couple of Hellraiser films. Unlike Harrow County, Cullen Bunn’s other long-running horror series which I’d recommend to anyone, I’d recommend The Unsound mostly to readers of horror because of the more extreme nature of the events that occur.
Cole’s artwork captures the fantastic; his choice of colors makes you feel like you’re staring into a drain, as various paints swirl around and disappear downward and you’re dragged down that drain with it. It’s a hypnotic, inducing visual motif that’s both wonderful to look at, but also kind of unsettling.
I’ve seen Jim Campbell’s name pop up as letterer on a few things recently. It’s nice when you take note of the work being done, and then to see it’s the same person whose work you’ve liked in the past. He’s really good.
If you love horror stories, especially ones with wonderful world building, The Unsound is right up your alley. I mean, Cullen Bunn isn’t about to waste your time on trivialities. This dude gets down to brass tacks every time.
Creative Team: Cullen Bunn (writer), Jack T. Cole (art), Jim Campbell (letters), Eric Harburn (editor)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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