THIS REVIEW OF ‘UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY’ #1 CONTAINS SPOILERS.
by Clyde Hall. Imagine American isolationists enforcing their will for three decades, 1917 to 1947. Not just overseeing the United States’ neutrality in World Wars I and II, but effectively cutting the nation off from the rest of the world. Imagine the sort of global community we might inhabit today as a result.
Now switch the span to now, plus thirty-odd years. Add political intrigue, a plague capable of human extinction, and a dash of current American climate. That’s a slice of Undiscovered Country. In the first issue, a world wrought from the imaginings of Scott Snyder and Charles Soule finds two primary global empires emerging after the United States closes borders. Contact. Communication.
Their timeline of the ‘overnight’ loss of U.S. world participation illustrates their superb plotting; it was coming, it was being planned, and it wasn’t all that sudden had anyone been paying close attention. The rest of the world copes, some glad to be shed of American interference, others feeling abandoned as the future unrolls before them.
For those two competing empires, it’s a time to build, form, and move forward in accordance of what one might expect from thirty years of advancement in the sciences. But within the confines of the United States? That’s anyone’s guess. Their powers-that-be spend time and effort to circumvent guessing. Attempts to place spies within the quarantined country are unsuccessful.
The rise of a plague called Sky appears to motivate a message from the U.S. to the rest of the world: They have a cure. They invite a delegation of representatives from the two major powers to enter their sovereign borders and work out a deal so that their cure can be shared. In exchange for unspecified considerations, naturally.
The delegation forms, specific instructions for proceeding are given, and an historic reunion commences. Until it’s abruptly halted within American airspace. Was the invitation a ruse? If so, by whom and to what end? The outsiders’ introduction to the new Home of the Brave reveals a Home of the Brutal. While the rest of the world’s carried on, the U.S. has taken a Cursed Earth detour. Or perhaps an intentional De-Evolutionary American Bypass.
The writing is taut, insightful, and dramatic as the story unfolds. The delegation members give subtle clues to how the governments outside the U.S. have evolved, and what each envoy brings to the table. A specialist on American society and history to act as cultural interpreter. A journalist to record what transpires for posterity. Two official government diplomats, one from each empirical alliance. An epidemiologist who has experience with the Sky virus and what a cure would entail. Her brother, a covert operative who came closer to infiltrating the American border than anyone ever and lived to return. Each with their own agenda, one of which may include faking a U.S. invitation to visit.
The long-silent Voice of America extending that invitation, real or manufactured, is Dr. Samuel Elgin. He headed an American thinktank with ties to the U.S. government. He provides authenticity to the message, but he’s also the only groan I had during the narrative. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the Freedom Fighters revisited and revised too often at DC. Maybe because the shadow of the only Alex Ross project I cringed at still haunts.
But it’s a stumble in what otherwise was meant as a dramatic crescendo. Not a face plant, merely a recoverable trip in an otherwise engaging futurist nightmare dreamt well. The proof of its validity cements within the Tartarus visions of Giuseppe Camuncoli and Daniele Orlandini. Their depiction of an advanced if troubled international stage is yin to their frenetic, Yankee fever dream yang.
Matt Wilson never goes for the shadows. Even his subterranean colors bring a phosphorescent glow. Desert grit hues his sandscapes, cerulean his Big Sky country panoramas. Crank! mirrors the orderly veneer of civilized lands, then balloons the savage-lands dialogue black as cancer. His brief neon words and billboards from what may be the last creative and reasonable vestige of American culture resonates with purpose.
Undiscovered Country presents ample variables on perceptions of our global village taken to conclusions both logical and insane. Possibly jingoistically romping mad. The protagonists are on the clock, and midnight marks the death of humanity. Meantime, there’s a whodunit in their midst, the question of who an invitation to visit America serves. It’s hard to imagine how the American Dream bred this. But this book begs us to take the leap, entices us with glimpses, so it’s even harder to imagine not returning to discover more. The world couldn’t turn down the chance to see what American ingenuity and hubris gone unchecked has wrought. Neither can we.
Image Comics / $3.99
Written by Scott Snyder and Charles Soule.
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Daniele Orlandini.
Colors by Matt Wilson.
Letters by Crank!.
8 out of 10
Check out this 6-page preview of ‘Undiscovered Country’ #1, courtesy of Image Comics!