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Under-Earth

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The inmates of an extensive underground prison struggle to build meaningful lives in a broken system, in the most ambitious graphic novel to date from rising indie star Chris Gooch (Bottled and Deep Breaths). Under-Earth takes place in a subterranean landfill, hollowed out to serve as a massive improvised prison. Sunken into the trash and debris of the past -- gameboys, iph The inmates of an extensive underground prison struggle to build meaningful lives in a broken system, in the most ambitious graphic novel to date from rising indie star Chris Gooch (Bottled and Deep Breaths). Under-Earth takes place in a subterranean landfill, hollowed out to serve as a massive improvised prison. Sunken into the trash and debris of the past -- gameboys, iphones, coffee cups, old cars -- we follow two parallel stories. In the first, a new arrival struggles to adapt to the everyday violence, physical labour, and poverty of the prison city. Overwhelmed and alone, he finds a connection with a fellow inmate through an old, beat-up novel. While these two silent and uncommunicative men grow closer thanks to their book, the stress of their environment will test their new bond. Meanwhile, a pair of thieves pull off a risky job in exchange for the prisons' schematics and the promise of escape -- only to be betrayed by their employer. On the run with their hope for escape now gone, the two women set their minds to revenge. Yet as they lay their plans, their focus shifts from an obsession with the outside world to the life they have with each other. Equal parts sincerity and violence, Under-Earth explores humanity's inextinguishable drive to find meaning, connection, and even family -- and how fragile such constructions can be.


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The inmates of an extensive underground prison struggle to build meaningful lives in a broken system, in the most ambitious graphic novel to date from rising indie star Chris Gooch (Bottled and Deep Breaths). Under-Earth takes place in a subterranean landfill, hollowed out to serve as a massive improvised prison. Sunken into the trash and debris of the past -- gameboys, iph The inmates of an extensive underground prison struggle to build meaningful lives in a broken system, in the most ambitious graphic novel to date from rising indie star Chris Gooch (Bottled and Deep Breaths). Under-Earth takes place in a subterranean landfill, hollowed out to serve as a massive improvised prison. Sunken into the trash and debris of the past -- gameboys, iphones, coffee cups, old cars -- we follow two parallel stories. In the first, a new arrival struggles to adapt to the everyday violence, physical labour, and poverty of the prison city. Overwhelmed and alone, he finds a connection with a fellow inmate through an old, beat-up novel. While these two silent and uncommunicative men grow closer thanks to their book, the stress of their environment will test their new bond. Meanwhile, a pair of thieves pull off a risky job in exchange for the prisons' schematics and the promise of escape -- only to be betrayed by their employer. On the run with their hope for escape now gone, the two women set their minds to revenge. Yet as they lay their plans, their focus shifts from an obsession with the outside world to the life they have with each other. Equal parts sincerity and violence, Under-Earth explores humanity's inextinguishable drive to find meaning, connection, and even family -- and how fragile such constructions can be.

30 review for Under-Earth

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    A 580 page dystopian novel by the author of Bottled. The distinctive dimension of the project is the coloring, as Gooch chooses 3-4 colors, with an occasional red to highlight action. This approach is consistent with what he did on Bottled. The story is loooong, with that kind of page length, though there are many wordless pages, so it's not a slog, though I thought foe what we get as a story, it could have been edited way down. The story takes place in some post-apocalypytic future, in what coul A 580 page dystopian novel by the author of Bottled. The distinctive dimension of the project is the coloring, as Gooch chooses 3-4 colors, with an occasional red to highlight action. This approach is consistent with what he did on Bottled. The story is loooong, with that kind of page length, though there are many wordless pages, so it's not a slog, though I thought foe what we get as a story, it could have been edited way down. The story takes place in some post-apocalypytic future, in what could be a totalitarian state (the police recall Farenheit 451 and 1984) in an underground prison named Delforge (which I thought might be a reference to cartoonist Michael DeForge?). The criminals there work as laborers. The prison was dug out of a landfill, so trash makes its ways into the story. There are two interwoven narratives; one is about Zoe and Ele, professional thieves and close friends, and the other features Malcolm, a tall, quiet man who collects garbage to sell; for much of the story Malcolm works for Mr. Optone, an inmate who seems to control Delforge. There's a lot of cruelty and violence in this graphic novel, piles of bodies strewn everywhere, but I think the story is mainly about friendship, especially between Zoe and Ele. Tender moments that undermine the sense of horror and terror. Gooch is a fine cartoonist.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kristen Shaw

    The world depicted in Under-Earth is a very bleak one, and there isn't much hope to be found here upon first glance. However, the friendships demonstrated here are the real heart and core of the volume. Although there is a lot of violence and hopelessness in this world, the story is punctuated with wryly funny points and moments of true connection between the characters, suggesting the only way to push back against this system is by finding and cherishing those moments of pleasure and genuine co The world depicted in Under-Earth is a very bleak one, and there isn't much hope to be found here upon first glance. However, the friendships demonstrated here are the real heart and core of the volume. Although there is a lot of violence and hopelessness in this world, the story is punctuated with wryly funny points and moments of true connection between the characters, suggesting the only way to push back against this system is by finding and cherishing those moments of pleasure and genuine connection. For these reasons, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. There are two interwoven narratives, both set in the underground prison city of Delforge, where criminals are sent as labourers. One of the narratives follows Zoe and Ele, professional thieves. The other mainly follows Malcolm, a tall, quiet man who collects garbage to sell. Zoe and Ele and Malcolm get involved with Mr. Optone, a fellow inmate but one with a lot of power: he seems to control the criminal underbelly of Delforge. Both narratives occasionally intersect but truly come together at the conclusion of the narrative. What was most interesting to me about the story is the logistics of Delforge; it is a brutal and harsh world. The inmates sleep in dilapidated buildings and box-like cubicles that are difficult to afford, they only have access to food that tastes like sand, and they are subject to violence from the guards but also the other inmates pushed to desperation. I was intrigued by the setting and I wanted to know more about it. Sometimes, I think the narrative could have been tightened up and the setting integrated into the plot more often. There are some details that are never really explained, but that could have been used to interesting effect. Ultimately, however, the core of the story is in the relationships between Ele and Zoe, Malcolm and his friend Reese. The moments of intimacy are lovely, bright spots in an otherwise dark story, and I think that the creator did a great job developing the characters and their relationships. The art style suits the topic and themes: the only colours used are black, yellow, and white, with some pops of red. The art is a little rough and simple, but also very kinetic; there are some pages where it feels more like you are watching a film than reading. A particularly excellent sequence in chapter five epitomizes this, as the escalating tension in both narratives leads to violent altercations and the panels jump between the two story lines in a really effective way. In short, dialogue is secondary to capturing the gritty feel and motion of the environment and the subtle reactions of the characters. Recommended if you like: Dystopian narratives/themes Gritty and unique settings and atmosphere Character- and friendship-driven stories Simple, high-contrast and eye-catching art Content warnings: Physical violence/murder - lots of it. Thank you to Netgalley and Top Shelf Productions for an ARC of this volume in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kadi P

    580 PAGES?! Do I dare? I found it on Hoopla but I would not be able to finish that many pages in 21 days, even if it was the only thing I read during that time. Why on earth is it so long? It's like 5 vols collected in 1😂 580 PAGES?! Do I dare? I found it on Hoopla but I would not be able to finish that many pages in 21 days, even if it was the only thing I read during that time. Why on earth is it so long? It's like 5 vols collected in 1😂

  4. 4 out of 5

    Key West Library

    Very interesting graphic novel. Even though this book is close to 600 pages long, it flew by. Even though we didn't get a lot of information on the characters, you could still understand their motivations. Very interesting graphic novel. Even though this book is close to 600 pages long, it flew by. Even though we didn't get a lot of information on the characters, you could still understand their motivations.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Siina

    Under-Earth is super suffocating and creepy, just perfect! The story takes place in an underground prison system, where you have to work in order to eat. Hierarchy and bullying are the core and everyone is an inmate for reasons unknown. We actually hardly ever get to know about the reasons, which is interesting. There's a hole in the sky and the place is a dumpster basically. There are two story lines with the boxer and a loser who end up as some sort of friends and these two who want to steal a Under-Earth is super suffocating and creepy, just perfect! The story takes place in an underground prison system, where you have to work in order to eat. Hierarchy and bullying are the core and everyone is an inmate for reasons unknown. We actually hardly ever get to know about the reasons, which is interesting. There's a hole in the sky and the place is a dumpster basically. There are two story lines with the boxer and a loser who end up as some sort of friends and these two who want to steal and break the unfair system in order to survive. The whole thing is so faceless and hollow. We don't get to know why everything is how it is and somehow there doesn't seem to be any possibility to a change. This is almost like horror actually. The art is simple and the colors are just black and white with yellow hues and whatnot. Under-Earth feels like a warning sign. This would be an awesome movie. Gooch is a master at creating an odd atmosphere that kicks the air out of you. Reminds me of Osamu Dazai in a way. I'm still baffled. A great comic indeed.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elna

    I absolutely loved Gooch's Bottled, and how he perfectly portrayed the raw and ugly emotions with both his writing and his gloomy palette. Well, that gloomy palette is back (with highlights of yellow), but the depth of emotion isn't there. We follow two stories: a pair of thieves, desperate to hold on to each other and escape, because there's nothing else, and a giant of a prisoner, solitary and under-the-radar. They both run afoul of the bespectacled man who runs the prison, and eventually end I absolutely loved Gooch's Bottled, and how he perfectly portrayed the raw and ugly emotions with both his writing and his gloomy palette. Well, that gloomy palette is back (with highlights of yellow), but the depth of emotion isn't there. We follow two stories: a pair of thieves, desperate to hold on to each other and escape, because there's nothing else, and a giant of a prisoner, solitary and under-the-radar. They both run afoul of the bespectacled man who runs the prison, and eventually end up working together (kind of) to achieve his demise. It's violent and unflinching about the horrors of living in an underground inescapable prison, without being too gratuitous, but the themes of friendship and family don't rise above. It's such a harsh environment, and those human emotions are necessary, but aside from one touching moment where one inmate betrays another, is in turn betrayed, and then they both forgive each other, it feels flat.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Marta Ilieva

    Under Earth was not my favorite graphic novel, and I want to say it’s because of the yellow and black colors that made me cringe each time I looked at the page. I know, I know – this is a rather silly reason to dislike a book. However, the story itself was also weird in a cool-yet-creepy-yet-what-in-the-world-is-happening kind of a way. This is a story about survival in the underground prison system, and the setting is most definitely creepy. Yes, there is fighting and bullying there, a notion t Under Earth was not my favorite graphic novel, and I want to say it’s because of the yellow and black colors that made me cringe each time I looked at the page. I know, I know – this is a rather silly reason to dislike a book. However, the story itself was also weird in a cool-yet-creepy-yet-what-in-the-world-is-happening kind of a way. This is a story about survival in the underground prison system, and the setting is most definitely creepy. Yes, there is fighting and bullying there, a notion that made this graphic more realistic and terrifying, but there is also a semblance of hope towards the end. I’m not sure I can have this graphic novel in my classroom, but I wouldn’t mind recommending this to any high school student who loves dystopian stories. Thank you NetGalley and Top Shelfs Productions for this eARC. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michael Kitchen

    A flowing graphic novel within a dystopian version of prison. Malcolm and Reece's story of betrayal and forgiveness merges with Zoe and Ele's story of two women seeking escape. The artwork simple and clear, bringing to life the man-made hellhole and its inhabitants. I enjoyed this graphic novel very much. A flowing graphic novel within a dystopian version of prison. Malcolm and Reece's story of betrayal and forgiveness merges with Zoe and Ele's story of two women seeking escape. The artwork simple and clear, bringing to life the man-made hellhole and its inhabitants. I enjoyed this graphic novel very much.

  9. 5 out of 5

    David

    Super edgy story about finding your humanity in the darkest places imaginable. A lot of the "Super Jail" tropes are present here, but the execution works. The environment is gritty, but the world building is rich. Your curiosity towards the bigger universe around this hellscape grows as the plot progresses. I would like to see more in this series, though I think the ending was perfect. Super edgy story about finding your humanity in the darkest places imaginable. A lot of the "Super Jail" tropes are present here, but the execution works. The environment is gritty, but the world building is rich. Your curiosity towards the bigger universe around this hellscape grows as the plot progresses. I would like to see more in this series, though I think the ending was perfect.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rolando José Rodríguez De León

    Great story, love every minute I spend reading it, so simple, yet so captivating. I will buy it on paper, I want to read it again and have it on my library. It is a master piece Graphic novel. I did a spanish review, that you can read here: https://pananime.com/LeAn/Entries/202... Great story, love every minute I spend reading it, so simple, yet so captivating. I will buy it on paper, I want to read it again and have it on my library. It is a master piece Graphic novel. I did a spanish review, that you can read here: https://pananime.com/LeAn/Entries/202...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jill Kenna

    This was a great start to my reading year! Very bloody and violent with interesting characters and a fantastic story.

  12. 5 out of 5

    rosalind

  13. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

  14. 5 out of 5

    Peter

  15. 4 out of 5

    Worm

  16. 5 out of 5

    Keith Eggleston

  17. 5 out of 5

    Zoe

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cristina

  19. 5 out of 5

    Soup

  20. 5 out of 5

    D B JETT

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sean Willey

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jill

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chris Blocker

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kelli Murrie

  27. 5 out of 5

    Afrida

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bengt

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brian Koob

  30. 4 out of 5

    Fred

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