THE UNSOUND #1 by Cullen Bunn and Jack Cole
THE UNSOUND #1 is enticingly steady-paced, giving the reader time to acclimate to this new world. With amazing illustrations by Jack T. Cole and Cullen Bunn's chilling narrative, THE UNSOUND is a must-read for horror fans.
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Visceral Horror

Horror comes in many flavors: Gore, psychological, action, comedy, satire, and so on. THE UNSOUND #1 falls into the “straight-up unsettling” category. You know the feeling when something just feels off? It’s the feeling that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. There’s not enough information for you to pinpoint why you feel creepy-crawly. But you can’t shake the sensation. Artist Jack T. Cole and writer Cullen Bunn capture this state of mind with the mysterious aura and amazing illustrations of THE UNSOUND #1.

An Eerie Beginning in THE UNSOUND #1

“Unsound” means unreliable or dangerous. So it makes sense that everything is questionable. By the end of the first issue, I was pleasantly confused and ready for more.

THE UNSOUND #1 follows Ashli Granger as she begins her new nursing job at Saint Cascia psychiatric hospital. In most popular media, this would be a bad sign. The horror genre loves to demonize mental illness. One example is M. Night Shyamalan’s film SPLIT. The main character suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID). However, he’s extremely dangerous. Most people with DID are way more likely to hurt themselves than others. This applies to other highly stigmatized mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. People stigmatize mental illness enough already, even those as common as anxiety and depression. So when media portrays sufferers as dangerous, it further ostracizes people who need help.

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On the other hand, THE UNSOUND #1 prefers using supernatural elements to creep you out. The patients themselves aren’t a threat, but rather the institution and administration are plotting something inhumane. Things are not what they seem. One patient tells Ashli that the patient’s parents have forgotten about her in the facility. And these various uncertainties and underlying corruption are what make your skin crawl.

Image courtesy of Boom! Studios

At first, the story also seems normal, which tends to freak me out the most. Horror that focuses on mediocrity brings the story close to home. Anybody could be Ashli, living in a crappy apartment and commuting to work via subway. And though the story becomes uncanny, the feeling of “what if this was me?” persists.

The Art of Storytelling

Visual storytelling is such an important part of comics. However, some comics rely too much on telling rather than showing. THE UNSOUND #1 has no problem balancing the two and this allows for just enough mystery to keep the reader invested.

READ: Looking for more great horror? Check out WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD #1!

THE UNSOUND #1 doesn’t suffocate the reader with characters and mysteries right off the bat. Instead, it felt like I was slowly turning the page and soaking in the details without sensory overload. It was gripping, but I didn’t want to speed through to get to the conclusion.

The comic reveals things gradually and doesn’t explicitly state Ashli’s life story in one paragraph. The first few pages don’t even have much text at all. But the illustrations describe the setting well enough on their own. Each location has its own unique color palette and feel, which makes it easier to see the world through Ashli’s eyes.

Image courtesy of Boom! Studios

Saint Cascia is an enormous and unwelcoming building. The interior is devoid of color aside from a sickly orange hue. Ashli’s apartment complex is accented by eccentric neighbors. The subway is vibrant with a variety of faces. And even in uneventful scenes, Bunn and Cole maintain a feeling of unease. Posters with oddly relevant quotes, strange individuals on public transportation, and wide shots that make Ashli seem small and vulnerable are just a few ways. Details like this and many others increase the comic’s reread value.

the unsound #1
Image courtesy of Boom! Studios

Perception vs. Reality

What is real? According to a SyfyWire interview with Bunn, THE UNSOUND will explore “the nature of reality, perception and insanity.” Many movies and shows use this for shock value because it allows for plot twists. Movies like SHUTTER ISLAND make the audience believe in the protagonist’s perceived reality, but later reveal the truth in order to surprise viewers. In THE UNSOUND’S case, the creators don’t seem to be tricking the reader in this way.

READ: THE UNSOUND isn’t Cullen Bunn’s first rodeo. Meet HARROW COUNTY!

But it looks like Ashli will have a rough time with her new job. The hospital’s sketchy administration seems barely human. Another employee even tells her not to make eye contact with the suited men conducting “evaluations.” And even though Ashli is sincere when she tells patients she wants to help, they struggle to accept her kindness. This is probably due to other staff members being abrasive towards patients (especially when patients try to interact with them).

Unfortunately, real psychiatric hospitals have similar issues. Many people who run the facilities are far from decent mental health advocates. We’ve come a long way from the psychiatric wards of the past, but that doesn’t mean we’ve reached the peak. Employees shun the patients they’re supposed to help.

Image courtesy of Boom! Studios

THE UNSOUND has many possible routes to take and I have faith that Bunn and Cole will create a truly chilling experience. After all, Bunn has worked on other horror titles like HARROW COUNTY, BLOOD FUED, THE DAMNED, and NIGHT TRAP. So, if you’re itching for a new and original horror, be sure to check out THE UNSOUND as soon as it hits the shelves.

You can find THE UNSOUND #1 anywhere that sells Boom! Studio comics this Wednesday!

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