cover image Under-Earth


Chris Gooch. Top Shelf, $29.99 (560p) ISBN 978-1-60309-477-1

Gooch (Bottled) delivers a claustrophobic tale of brutality, survival, and betrayal in a world where humanity must persist in the harshest conditions. In a toxic prison built inside a subterranean landfill, prisoners sift through debris to make a living. (“You work or you starve. Nobody cares either way.”) Reece, a new arrival, struggles to adapt, and connects with Malcolm, a towering fellow inmate who offers him unusual friendship—until the hostile environment puts their friendship to the test. When a gang beats up Reece, he looks to his friend for help—only to be let down. Later, Reece gives up Malcolm to the predators, who sell him into an illegal fighting ring. Meanwhile, two women navigate the underworld and take on a job that might get them out, but their employer betrays them. Desperate and wounded, they plot their revenge. These two threads unspool in alternating chapters as the spare drawings linger on acts of violence, with brilliant red blood set against muted shades of black and yellow. The hyper-grim focus amplifies the significance of every act of kindness, making those moments surprisingly moving. Told with superb rhythm, this pitch-perfect thriller gets dystopia down right. (Nov.)