THE UNSOUND #3 by Cullen Bunn and Jack T. Cole
THE UNSOUND #3 is visually the strongest issue yet. Jack T. Cole's art is as terrific as it is harrowing. Cullen Bunn's writing is picking up speed, meaning this may be the calm before the storm.
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St. Cascia has more secrets than even the most seasoned personnel understand. Cullen Bunn and Jack T. Cole’s THE UNSOUND #3 parts the veil and pushes readers into a fantastic but horrifying new world. In the last issue, Ashli and the remaining staff and patients follow the masked Xerxes to a set of doors. Beyond the doors, they will find out about a secret section of the hospital — but not without a price. In order to enter the world, they must give up their preconceptions of reality.

New Answers in THE UNSOUND #3

The entire issue is dedicated to acclimating readers to St. Cascia’s alternate psychiatric facility. Patients actually created this unseen section of the hospital when it originally closed years ago. Instead of caring about the patients’ stability, the hospital planned on pushing them back into the world. According to Xerxes, they only cared about profitability over patient welfare. This isn’t too far from reality either. When medical facilities are run like corporate businesses, people are dehumanized and seen as financial burdens rather than people who need help.

Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios

And though I’ve seen the theme plenty of times, the idea that humans are capable of horrific acts still makes for a great story. Though, I shouldn’t jump to conclusions. Given how odd this world is, the alternate St. Cascia’s staff may not be human at all. Even the Prince, a figure whom the patients revere so highly, left a while ago for reasons we don’t yet know. And in his absence, the mysterious men in black now run the show. From what we’ve seen of them before, they didn’t even appear human in the real world. Whatever the “real world” means.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Now we are fully immersed in the unseen world, and Jack T. Cole’s art is stronger than ever. There are no “real world” boundaries to maintain order, so the subterranean world is free to jump off the page. Cole uses full-page far shots to capture the strangeness of this alternate world. At first, it actually looks like a lovely dream world with intricate stonework and swirling staircases. But as you descend, the world becomes much more terrifying.

unsound #3
Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios

There’s a lot to explore on pages like this. From the small crouching green figure to the bloody statue with a skull for a head, you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. Yes, the “real” St. Cascia is still pretty creepy too, with its muted color palette and long, ominous hallways, but at least it was grounded in a familiar reality. Alternate St. Cascia doesn’t hold back. In fact, one scene involves Dr. Kearney wandering off and ultimately getting hanged and beaten like a piñata by the alternate world’s patients. He even deflates as if he was made of papier-mâché. Cole has a lot of creative freedom in this world, and I’m excited to see how he uses it for the following issues.

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Letting Go of “Sanity”

Xerxes emphasizes that nobody can live in this strange place if they don’t ease into it. But as you can guess, that’s not the easiest thing to hear. It also makes you wonder what sanity really is.

Most everyone is scared out of their wits. One of the employees becomes inconsolable at the thought of losing her mind and panics. She says, “All I’ve got is my mind,” which shows she probably hasn’t struggled with intense mental illness. She only knows the experience through the people she cares for at St. Cascia. But when she takes her mask off, three tall figures with creepy masks and black robes take her away. The figures seem pretty similar to the mysterious, suited men in previous issues.

Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios

Ashli acclimates most easily to the world, which is telling. Given her past with self-harm and depression, she’s already seen dark places. She doesn’t react to the situation in fear, but rather with annoyance. When Xerxes keeps speaking cryptically, Ashli gets angry. Later, when we find the employee who was whisked away, she is completely unresponsive, almost as if the black robed figures lobotomized her. But even after this shocking discovery, as well as Dr. Kearney’s untimely demise, Ashli seems much more level-headed than anyone else. She becomes so angry with Xerxes at one point that she fits into the strange world as she turns a neon green with a gruesome expression. Perhaps Ashli knows more about this place than she realizes.

CLICK: Love strange worlds? Check out ELSEWHERE #1!

Final Thoughts on THE UNSOUND #3

Overall, THE UNSOUND #3 lays a great foundation for the alternate St. Cascia. It’s creepy, unsafe, and unpredictable. Ashli continues to be a great protagonist as well. She may be afraid (who wouldn’t be?), but she’s brave and hates when people beat around the bush. Although, I would love to see more development in other characters. Xerxes is an interesting character as well, but I’d like to see more from the other patients. After the events of this issue, I can really feel the plot heating up as well. And even though we still haven’t met the Prince, there are plenty of other mysteries to keep us on our toes.

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