In the last issue of Boom! Studios’ THE UNSOUND by Cullen Bunn and Jack T. Cole, we left Ashli at the hands of three blood-spattered patients. To say the least, her first day as a nurse at Saint Cascia psychiatric hospital isn’t going so well. Unfortunately, the encounter might have been the high point. In THE UNSOUND #2, we learn that Saint Cascia’s secrets go far beyond the ominous management and the ill-equipped staff. The supernatural feeling from the first issue is now front and center as we venture into “the prince’s” domain.

An Unseen World in THE UNSOUND #2

After Ashli’s encounter with the three patients, she finds out that none of them actually exist within the hospital’s records. She’s offended when Dr. Kearney seems to start evaluating how accurate her story is. In fact, most of the staff seems oblivious to a world right under their noses. The staff has a false sense of comfort, believing that their facility is well-maintained. But, as Ashli points out, they’re understaffed, and patients have no real structure. So when many of the patients begin rioting, it seems like lack of care is to blame.

However,  the patients’ actions are calculated and planned out, so they’re not just “losing it.” One panel shows a patient using glass shards as “claws.” And while all of this is happening, Dr. Kearney is telling Ashli that the facility is safe and even offers her pills to take the edge off. When they finally do learn of the riot, the only option is to follow Xerxes, the masked patient who always seems to pop out of thin air.

Image courtesy of Boom! Studios

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Xerxes takes the remaining staff to the tunnels beneath the hospital and gives everyone a “disguise” that consists of a paper plate looking mask with holes for eyes. But the masks are more than an aesthetic choice: anyone wearing one sees more than the naked eye can. The mask turns the world around them into an oddly-colored scene with strange markings and symbols. The color palette drastically changes from its usual subdued hues as well, turning into garish bright greens and pinks. The riot scene looks similar to what you can see through the mask, which tells you there’s definitely something supernatural going on.

Close to Home

We learn more about Ashli in this issue as well. We don’t go through a montage of flashbacks or anything like that, but we do get hints that she has struggled with mental illness in the past. When her boss asks why she wanted to work in the facility, she tells him that she just wants to help people. This is a pretty sensitive moment, as a panel implies she used to self-harm. It isn’t graphic, but it gives us enough information without being gratuitous about a topic that should be handled carefully.

Image courtesy of Boom! Studios

It’s not clear yet how Ashli’s mental health will play a role in THE UNSOUND overall, but I’m really hoping the plot doesn’t veer towards the overused “everything was just the protagonist’s imagination” trope. The story has a distinct supernatural feel to it, especially with the unseen world. THE UNSOUND #2 sets up an interesting and terrifying world for the next two issues, and it would be a shame to give this series the SHUTTER ISLAND treatment by making it all a delusion.

CLICK: Catch up with another great Boom! Studios series with MISFIT CITY #2!

The Prince

The prince is a pretty big deal around here. We have yet to see him or learn if he’s human at all. In any case, Ashli somehow plays a role in his grand scheme, as Xerxes and the three rogue patients have made clear. It sounds as if the prince is looking for a princess to rule over his subterranean kingdom, but it’s not totally clear yet. All we’re certain of is that the prince is highly persuasive.

the unsound #2
Image courtesy of Boom! Studios

The patients act like they’re under a trance as they smash a TV and use the shards as weapons. The suspicious management in black suits looks on in what seems like glee. The scene is chaotic but also purposeful because it forces Ashli to follow Xerxes to the prince. Is management orchestrating the uprising or are they simply along to watch it all unfold? Perhaps they’re accomplices in the prince’s grand scheme.

THE UNSOUND #2 raises many questions, but not enough that you can’t enjoy reading. Jack T. Cole’s art just keeps getting better, and Cullen Bunn’s direction and writing are chilling. The story is truly heating up now, and I’m excited to see the twists and turns of the next few issues.

Pick up THE UNSOUND #2 at any comic store that sells Boom! Studios comics or digitally on July 5th!

THE UNSOUND #2 by Cullen Bunn and Jack T. Cole
THE UNSOUND #2 keeps up with the first issue's unsettling atmosphere, but now we're diving head first into the main plot.
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