Underwinter’s first arc, Symphony, is a beautiful, cryptic, horrifying triumph — it’s also dense with opaque symbolism and finishes with an ending that raises more questions than answers. It’s a book I enjoyed immensely while appreciating the opinion of anyone who did not. Either way, I do believe that creator Ray Fawkes must be lauded for his commitment to achieving an aesthetic, tonal, and narrative standard for the book. The brilliant watercolor artwork and haunting story he concocted weave in and out of one another; often marching in lock-step, at times seeming to diverge, but always in service of his singular vision.
Fortunately, A Field of Feathers has begun to set the stage for another examination of the distortions of reality lurking at the periphery of perception. Switching between the perspectives of two groups of new characters, Fawkes blends washed-out watercolors and bold inks to create something creepy and perplexing and wonderful to look at. He continues to use color in a thoughtful way, casting the book’s subjects in complementary blues and oranges. His deliberate application of each color to a particular set of characters imbues the two tones with a deeper significance and meaning, framing one as decidedly more ominous. And reserved uses of bold reds, a theme carried over from Symphony, serve to ramp up the intrigue when they appear on a page.
Underwinter was undoubtedly a slow burner across its first six issues, each one uncovering just enough to keep readers engaged while rationing out the big reveals for later issues (and as it turns out, later arcs). While the background of the first arc provides insight on some of the visual motifs used throughout A Field of Feathers, it still begins jarringly in media res and ends without providing a whole lot of context. Even when compared to Symphony’s first issue, A Field of Feathers #1 is sparse on detail. Despite the disorienting start, though, I’m truly curious to know what’s going on behind the curtain in this world Fawkes has constructed.
In fact, that’s really the root of my main complaint — I wish I had MORE of the mystery to unravel, more lovingly crafted and impalpable unsettling watercolor tableaus expanding on this haunting universe. My frustration with A Field of Feathers is born out of intrigue, but it’s frustration nonetheless. I don’t want to accuse the story of being better suited to a trade paperback format, as I’m definitely looking forward to picking up the next chapter each month. But with a full third of the book consisting of gorgeous, visually provocative, textless panels, seeing things come to an end after 22 pages left me unfulfilled.
I suppose that leaving your readers wanting more is one of the better problems a creator could have, and Fawkes has certainly shaped an engaging world for Underwinter that I’m eager to continue exploring. If you were drawn in by the vaguely apocalyptic, cosmic horror creepiness and moody, provocative watercolor art of the first six issues, then A Field of Feathers shouldn’t be missed. 4/5
Story / Art / Cover / Variant Cover: Ray Fawkes