By Zack Smith
Jeff Parker: Wesley Fischer is our main character, she works for the State Parks system as a Ranger, though her first love is caving. She's a fairly recent immigrant to the town of Marion, where she pulled a lot of strings to get stationed so she could explore the Stillwater Cave there.
The cave has been closed to the public for years for safety reasons, and there's a growing movement in the town to develop it as a show cave, like a sister to Mammoth Cave, to bring some tourist dollars into the area.
Wes is against this because she doesn't want the cave system compromised--there's already been a fair amount of damage to it over the years. But the local entrepreneur Winston Barefoot is putting his considerable weight behind the venture, and an inspector from the state is coming to look into the matter.
The problem is that some of Winston's men have taken the initiative to get the cave ready for development to hurry things along.
NRAMA: Tell us about Wesley and the other main characters.
SL: Wesley is a park ranger and environmentalist, not necessarily in that order. She's smart, athletic and concerned, but not looking to be any sort of hero. But the cave is a fragile ecosystem, and she's committed to keeping it pristine.
Seth Ridge is a park ranger too. He's part Cherokee and unlike Wes, he has deep roots in the town. For him, the cave was a place to hang out with his buddies as a kid. He and Wes hooked up for the first time the night before the story starts, and they aren't really sure where they stand with each other.
Some reviews of Underground:
This Comic Is Good--Underground
A Year of Cool Comics---Day 82
The story is set in Marion, Kentucky. Since it's in the far west of the state, near Illinois, I don't think many Cherokee lived there. They did spend the winter of 1838-1839 there during the infamous Trail of Tears.
Anyway, several characters seem to be part Native:
Winston Barefoot mentions his "Cherokee heritage" in one panel and runs a store filled with Indian kitsch. Seth Ridge says his mother was Native. Ridge is a Cherokee name and Barefoot is evidently supposed to be Native too.
Barefoot and Ridge both have reddish skin, though it comes and goes. Barefoot's henchman Harden also has this skin color, as does the chief ranger, occasionally. Harden and the ranger may be Native or part Native too.
Alas, Underground makes no use of this Native background. No Native legends of the underground or anything. It's kind of a missed opportunity.
At least there's nothing stereotypical, so that's good.
As for the rest of the series, it's competently done but nothing you need to read. The characters spend one issue mostly dangling by ropes and another creeping through a water-filled passage. If you're into caving or want a change of pace, check it out.