Robot 6

‘Unsounded': The ties that bind

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Note: This contains spoilers for Unsounded: Chapter 9, “Wherein Family Ties Chafe the Throat.”

In a way, the recurring theme of Ashley Cope’s Unsounded is breaking ties.

The most obvious example of this is the zombie Duane, who was ripped from his old human life when he and his daughter were murdered by an invading force. Now doomed to live his existence as one of the walking dead, he is bound to his young companion Sette because of his compassion for children. He is thrust from his noble position and his loving family, and becomes a shambling servant of a criminal family.

He’s not the only one. The amoral magician Quigley breaks his contract with the slaver Red Berry Boys when they insult his son. Heroic knight Toma must break his association with local law enforcement when he learns they’re in the pocket of the mob. They choose to defy powerful organizations out of a sense of pride and duty, respectively.

The biggest emotional gut-punch, however, may be the journey of Sette Frummagem, the daughter of a powerful crime lord. The first things we hear from her are how she’s going to do her father proud and how she’s going to one day be the head of the organization; family is first and foremost. The story begins with her setting off on a journey to collect money from a delinquent relative, Stockyard Frummagem, with Duane acting as her bodyguard.

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 7.37.27 PMThe most recent chapter has Sette finally coming face to face with her cousin. In a comical scene, she asks Duane to make her look “tall and glorious” — and Duane uses some Green Lantern powers to put a box under her feet. She makes her demands known: Stockyard has been delinquent for three years, and the Frummagem family is due it payment. Stockyard makes his excuses: Money in his town is magically tracked (like some sort of ethereally powered bitcoin), and is nontransferable. However, Stockyard drops the bomb when he meets Sette in private: The whole thing has been a ruse, and her father was in on it.

Unbeknown to Sette, Stockyard has been in communication with Sette’s father; they’ve had a letter correspondence, which surprises Sette, as she assumed her dad was illiterate. Sette wasn’t here to collect. The real reason she traveled across the lands was because of Duane’s instinct to protect children. Unknowingly, Sette had delivered a zombie to her cousin — one who would be locked in a spiked harness to be trained to do his bidding.

Is Stockyard lying? It’s possible. Stockyard may be making the whole thing up to weasel out of his payment, and maybe Sette’s father was completely on the level. It certainly got me scrambling to see if there was any evidence that Sette’s father could indeed read.

However, everything in the story seems to be leading up to this moment. Nothing about Sette indicates she will be a mob boss; she’s too brash, too immature, too mouthy … and too compassionate. And it seems the Frummagems have a powerful reach. When Unsounded began, I assumed Sette’s family was a small-time organization, as it was sending the heir-apparent on a trivial collection mission. It turns out the Frummagems are quite powerful, with their fingers in politics and law enforcement. The betrayal feels real because it makes too much sense.

At least Sette seems to think so when she bolts from Stockyard’s room, perhaps breaking ties with her family … the only thing she’s ever cherished. Credit to Cope: The previous few chapters have done a fantastic job deepening the ties between Sette and Duane. Maybe when Unsounded started, it would’ve been hard to see Sette ever taking sides against the family. Now I can’t imagine her doing anything but.

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Comments

4 Comments

I do love this webcomic but geez, spoilers much? Who would even want to read it after this, you’ve given everything away. Even the top image is a major, major spoiler.

@JO: Well, I did preface the entire thing with a big spoiler warning. It’s right there in the first line. Also, while there are spoilers in that image, I don’t think that it ruins much. First, until you meet the character, you don’t know who he is. (He only shows up like 10 pages before those panels.)

Second, he only refers to a “con.” There’s no reference as to what “con” he’s talking about. And he is a thief in a criminal organization, afterall. He could be talking about a number of cons, not necessarily the BIG con. Maybe he’s talking about running a con on the local government. Or a con on the Red Berry Boys. Sure, Sette is surprised, but who knows for what reason. Maybe she’s surprised that the guy isn’t as dumb as he looks.

Long story short, while there are major spoilers in the piece, I made every precaution not to ruin it for people.

I also should point out that it’s a big presumption that spoilers of any kind means that no one would every want to read anything. Frankly, I’ve read through many a spoilers in my time, and several have made me want to check things out more. If, for example, I found out a few years back that Batman died in a storyline and Dick Grayson took over the mantle, that would make me want to check out all the issues leading up to it to see how things unraveled. I’d like to think that Unsounded is the sort of comic that has such strong storytelling chops that knowing things ahead of time wouldn’t kill the experience.

But yeah… there’s a big spoiler warning in the first sentence.

Two minor nitpicks: the chapter title is actually “The Deadly Nevergreen”(the brothel) and “Wherein Family Ties Chafe the Throat.” is a sub-title. Secondly, Duane was transported there on behalf of the rich Aldish guy you can see in Settes flashbacks, and Stockyard is only serving as a middle-man. Plus Stockyards claims suggest that maybe Duane is just a construct and never was a real person. Though that might just be me. Another great articel othervise, I didn’t realize breaking ties was such a central theme in the comic! :).

The ‘training mask’ was put on Duane to prevent him from casting spells by causing him constant agonizing pain, not to train him. It was created in the past in a failed attempt to train the mindless variety of zombies; Duane keeping his intelligence and personality is unique.

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