Fifteen years ago, from a hole in the ground in rural Washington, a tiny flying machine emerged and Charles Hoy found it. From all appearances, this small vehicle wasn't built with any existing human technology and Hoy made a fortune selling that technology to the first eager customer. Now with his fortunes dwindling and his curiosity piqued with more than a decade of questioning, Hoy has hired a team of adventurers to enter this vast, underground realm in hopes of bringing back even greater discoveries. But while the team expects the unexpected and is prepared for danger, nothing they can imagine will prepare them for The World Below.
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In 1998 Chadwick took a break from chronicling his signature hero, Concrete, to take on a more conventional adventure. The World Below follows a team of six hired to explore a series of underground caverns containing potentially lucrative alien technology--and also bizarre creatures. As Chadwick's introduction notes, it's something of a precursor to Lost, featuring a disparate group thrust into a mysterious, menacing environment and incorporating flashbacks gradually revealing the cast's backstories. If the fantastic beings Chadwick conjures up are compellingly imaginative, and the action is gripping, the characters never really come to life. Lackluster sales that forced him to wrap up the story line rather abruptly when the title was cancelled didn't help, either. Chadwick kept the tale interesting by peppering it with philosophizing a la Concrete, and his highly wrought drawing and adept page design are as effective as ever. It's no match for Concrete, but 99 percent of other comics aren't, either, so that's no reason not to enjoy this lesser work's modestly successful blend of derring-do and thoughtfulness. Gordon Flagg
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Chadwick's works, like his well-known Concrete, have always maintained a fiercely individual slant, but this collection of his two miniseries raids the back catalogues of Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Challengers of the Unknown and a plethora of underground exploration yarns. Chadwick sends "the Team of Six" into a hostile subterranean landscape replete with horrific monsters, strange natural phenomena, incredible technologies and lost civilizations with predictable results. The characters are much better written than what's usually seen in team books, with a story often interrupted by some random, oddball threat that is usually solved with a bout of action or a firefight. The action set pieces are quite lively, thanks to the author's no-nonsense artwork. It's clear that Chadwick was trying to develop a piece that would yield narrative rewards if given time to find its audience and thrive. However, the series was ended early, necessitating a rapid conclusion that solves most of the plot threads, resulting in an engagingly illustrated, deeply flawed but interesting curiosity. (Jan.)
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