REVIEW: Underworld (2021)

A Graphic Novel by Mathieu Burniat

Hades, malevolent ruler of the underworld, or perhaps something more? That’s exactly what is on the table in the newest book from Europe Comics, Underworld by Mathieu Burniat. When one thinks “underworld”, they only assume that means that Hades is a deity that controls death and the afterlife right? This book asks, what if he’s literally in charge of the very land beneath our own feet? What if he’s salty with humans because we are taking care of his empire in any way, and wants to take a break – get a successor in there that can figure out a way to change things? Assistant by his noble companion Cerberus the three-headed dog, he sets out to do that very thing, albeit in a weird competitive way.

“Hades, God of the Underworld, is seeking a successor. The prize? His fabled horn of plenty, source of boundless wealth. But to winnow down the applicant pool, Hades has devised a series of challenges as deadly to hopefuls as they are enlightening to readers, taking us all on a tour of the soil: its uses and abuses, riches and resources. Beneath our feet lies a world teeming with life, whose fate is intimately tied with our own. In this fantasy adventure Mathieu Burniat deftly blends pop science and mythology to educate and enthrall on a topic vital to our troubled times.”

Despite what I assumed this book was going to be about, this is truly a unique book – one part Battle Royale, one Part Willy Wonka, and One part Lorax, it’s one of the strangest ideas I’ve seen in a while. In a weird way this is an educational book, but not in the way that I expected. Hades puts everyone through a grueling series of trials to search for cards that unlock their ability to gain access to his “horn of plenty”. In doing so, he traps everyone in various stages of the earth’s soil and subsequent layers. When this happens he usually tells little facts about the Earth in a similar way to the series Cells at Work and how it teaches you facts about the human body. I went in expecting a book on Hellenistic gods, and had no idea I was in for an Earth Science comic. Now, saying it’s vaguely educational and similar to a book meant for kids isn’t to say that this is in any way meant for children, its full of blood, death, even mild nudity. But, my friends, learning doesn’t stop at adulthood!

I will say this book has a rather bizarre ending, but for all it’s grizzly deaths and other horrors, its surprisingly light-hearted and it ended how I somewhat figured it would, I suppose. All-in-all it’s a fun comic that tackles a bit of environmentalism that you don’t hear about to often – the fact that factory farming and industrial agriculture does far more damage to The Earth, and its ecosystems than anyone running a TV for too long could ever do. As a tool to spread this education of these issues to people that perhaps were unaware is somewhat unorthodox, but my hat’s off to the author for doing it in such an interesting way. This was a fun comic, and stays away from being too preachy while keeping you interested in what’s happening.

If you are interested in this book click HERE

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

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