Review – Nature’s Labyrinth #2 (Mad Cave Studios)

Publisher: Mad Cave Studios
Writer: Zac Thompson
Artwork: Bayleigh Underwood
Colourist: Warnia Sahadewa
Lettering: Rus Wooton
Release Date: 14th December 2022

In the first issue of Mad Cave’s Nature’s Labyrinth, a group of eight strangers responded to a call informing them that they had won an all-expenses paid stay on a private cruise. Almost immediately, and as you might expect, they found themselves drugged and dumped on a mysterious island where they awoke wearing backpacks complete with mounted webcams, with a quirky holographic cat telling them that they have been selected for a game of survival and that they have 60 hours to escape the island and win a massive cash prize.

In the time-honoured tradition of Battle Royale and games both Squid and Hunger, this is a good ol’ fashioned battle for survival from the minds of Zac Thompson and Bayleigh Underwood, and the first two issues have been a heck of a lot of fun. Sure, the cast of characters are fairly one-dimensional, at least for the time being (although we did discover at end of the first issue that one of them is an undercover CIA agent) but this story is all about the horrors of the labyrinth and the inventive traps contained within to this point.

Unlike Zac Thompson, who has been a personal favourite of mine since The Dregs back in 2017, I’ll fully admit that I wasn’t particularly familiar with Bayleigh Underwood’s work prior to picking this series up.  Thankfully, she proves more than up to the task of bringing this frantic, over-the-top spectacle to life, with a slight Manga tinge to her work that feels faintly reminiscent of James Stokoe (I hate comparing artists to other artists, but that should definitely be taken as a compliment).

Underwood, alongside colourist Warnia Sahadewa, also does a great job of setting the scene as the environment shifts from towering mazes to claustrophobic grasslands to fields of bright, colourful flowers.  There’s a lot of quirky visual stuff going on here, but the pair manage to keep things flowing smoothly throughout, and have so far done a stellar job of bringing the various deaths and dismemberments to the page with real gusto.

My main niggle with this series is the fact that it’s still all a little bewildering to this point, with no real rhyme or reason as to why any of this is happening. Sure, we get the occasional glimpse of shady operators manipulating things from rooms stacked with monitors, and this issue sees a Halberd-wielding, Safari suit-wearing Hunter entering the fray (which is admittedly kinda fun), but there are definitely a lot more questions than answers being provided so far, and at this point, I’d like to have at least some idea of what’s actually going on.

That said, the relentless energy and violent, chaotic vibes definitely keeps the pages turning throughout, and if you’re a fan of reading stories where groups of strangers are pitted against fiendish traps and each other for the amusement of an invisible audience, this is definitely the comic book for you.  Well worth a look, but hopefully the next issue will start to draw back the curtain on the reasons behind these horrors.

Rating: 3.5/5.


The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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