A compelling start to a new supernatural crime series from the creators of Stray Bullets.

Review: UNDERHEIST #1 – Digging for Stolen Riches

From Stray Bullets creators Maria and David Lapham comes a compelling opening chapter about desperation and criminals stiffing criminals in Underheist #1. Featuring colors from Hilary Jenkins, this first issue does incredible work in delivering a sense of desperation among a group of relatable people who decide to do something extremely rash – like robbing a score from a bunch of hardened professional criminals. With a brilliantly paced plot and expressive visuals, Underheist is off to a stellar start.

“After his gambling addiction brings David to the lowest point in his life and decimates his personal life, he’d do anything for one last chance at setting things right but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. He may just be in luck-if he can call it that; the grapevine yields illicit fruit as he learns of a heist, one involving a tunnel system that no one knows better than former NYC subway veteran David…”

Writing & Plot

Maria and David Lapham excel at creating an enticing crime plot with fleshed out characters in Underheist #1. The grim version of NYC – full of criminals, debts, and satanic gangsters – feels grounded in reality. This is largely due to how fleshed out the cast is. David is an increasingly desperate subway worker, struggling under gambling debts and what he owes to more nefarious beings. While searching for a way out of his situation, he overhears a plan from a group of professional criminals to rob a banks and use the subway tunnels to get away. David hatches a plan along with some old friends and coworkers to swipe their score – and naturally, things get complicated. What makes this first issue’s story stand out so much is how well the characters are handled. There’s a relatively large cast to look after here – David, his wife, his white collar friend, two coworkers, a coworker’s fling, etc. The Lapham’s do an incredible job of making all of these people feel complete and distinct. Every one of them has a different angle and a completely unique personality. The fact that this much care has been put into a 22 page issue without coming off as overloaded is an immense feat. There’s also the hints of a supernatural element at play, stemming from one of David’s more nefarious debtors. The Laphams have only loosely hinted at this though, leaving whatever unnatural forces are at play a mystery for now. This is a wise choice. With the amount of plot development and characterization at play in these pages, an extra layer would have been overfilling the comic. As it is though, Underheist is off to an astonishing start in terms of writing.

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Art Direction

David Lapham provides the visual experience for the grimy subterranean crime plot in Underheist #1. Lapham does some incredible work in making his cast a diverse and unique group of individuals, all with distinct appearances and animations. His environmental detail is also stellar, especially when it comes to the underground worksites and their labyrinthine corridors. Lapham’s sequential direction carries the story at an even pace as well. His mixing of large scenic panels combined with smaller ones that focus on minute details make sure the audience catches everything that Lapham wants readers to focus on. The comic runs almost entirely on a six-panel layout, making for a consistent focus that shifts right when Lapham needs to change what our attention needs to be on. There’s a mastery in the subtlety going on with Lapham’s pencils in Underheist, and it makes the visual experience’s main flaw a bit tragic in a way.

Hilary Jenkins’s color art for Underheist #1 is solid, with a sort of muddy, dark set of tone choices that work great for the comic’s atmosphere. However, it’s hard not to imagine how this comic would have looked as a black and white experience. If you’ve read Stray Bullets, you know exactly what I’m talking about. This isn’t a slight on Jenkins’s work at all – again, her work here is very good, offering a sort of twisted pop-art aesthetic to Underheist. Lapham and Jenkins’ work separately is great, but together it’s unfortunate that it almost feels like something may be getting lost. Overall, this is still a good looking comic with a well-defined aesthetic.


Underheist #1 is a stellar opening issue with one of the most complete introductions to a setting in recent comics. Mara and David Lapham expertly craft a cast of characters and present a plot with a brilliant sense of pacing and unique characterization. David Lapham’s pencils, combined with Hilary Jenkins’ color art, make for a visually unique and atmospheric take on a grimy NYC crime tale. Be sure to grab this issue when it hits shelves on December 13th!

Justin Munday
Justin Munday
Reader and hoarder of comics. Quietly sipping coffee, reading, and watching sci-fi in Knoxville, TN.
A compelling start to a new supernatural crime series from the creators of Stray Bullets.Review: UNDERHEIST #1 - Digging for Stolen Riches