In its second print issue, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari’s “The Bunker” seems to be all about playing the long game. After the bombshell reveals in Issue #1, the kids are still confused and relatively quiet. Fialkov and Infurnari look at the buildup required before an action can be taken: what questions the characters ask themselves, how they see their future and why they feel compelled to do something. Though there are still plenty of surprise moments, and though “The Bunker” just might have introduced its first villain, this is primarily an issue about the decision-making process.
Billy is shaping up to be the emotional anchor of the book, even though Grady is arguably the most active in pursuing his destiny. The other characters still need some more fleshing out to escape their teen movie archetypes, but these two are at least beginning to feel real. Having given the reader a genuine comfort level with the cast in Issue #1, the creative team can now make the reader start to feel uncomfortable about these characters’ choices.
The characterization seems like it will be complex, if only because I still can’t figure out which character(s) will end up playing the villain(s). Those who seemed most unlikeable in the last issue either don’t show up here or redeem themselves somewhat, while those who were innocents in Issue #1 get some hard edges in Issue #2.
Infurnari’s panels also give things an air of mystery and a little bit of menace, even when he’s only illustrating teenage philosophizing. The barely sketched out faces and murky, undefined backgrounds make me feel both that something else is going on and that I’m definitely missing what it is. The characters’ faces are often the clearest thing in the panel, and they’re nuanced and hard to read.
Though I do appreciate the atmosphere that’s created by Infurnari’s approach, I still can’t decide how I feel about the colors in print editions of “The Bunker.” Sometimes they really work. For instance, in this issue they establish a palpable but subtle difference between the scenes from the future and those from the present. It’s so subtle that the reader could miss it, but once I noticed, it added to the smoothness of the transitions between now and AME (After Mass Extinction) 15. Other times, though, the slashing colors hide too much of the action, as they did when future Billy was tackled and pinned down.
So far “The Bunker” is thought-provoking, but it’s something I already suspect I’ll enjoy better in trade format. Fialkov and Infurnari are interested in the dark side of ambition and accomplishment, and that sort of character work takes time. Their approach also looks like it will reward close reading and patience of the sort which can be tricky to sustain month-to-month. Of course, you may all be cleverer and more diligent than I am — in which case, this will be your go-to monthly for ideas about responsibility, consequences and the future.