Undiscovered Country #1
Thirty years ago the United States of America sealed its borders and left the rest of the world to its own devices. No one has heard anything from its shores in three decades but as the world faces an epidemic of extinction level proportions a message is received...
Balance… that’s the primary goal of any first issue of a new comic or book series in my opinion. To strike a balance between getting the reader to invest in the world-building done by the writer or writers (in this case) as well as create enough pull in the opening chapter to make the reader want to know what happens next. Undiscovered Country does this remarkably well.
On the face of it, the premise is simple. A message is received from the lost nation of the USA offering a possible cure to the deadly sky virus that is ravaging the rest of the world and a hand picked team is pulled together from across the globe to respond. This team includes a soldier, a spy, a historian, two diplomats representing the dominant world powers as well as an epidemiologist and journalist and off they go. The fact that the message is presented by a character that looks like a modern day version of Uncle Sam and is in fact named Dr. SAM Elgin (Elgin can mean Noble or White in Celtic ) is a clever touch.
The pacing is solid and is filled with just the right amount of information to believably world build around you without overloading you with information, establishing the characters of the piece but also creating a sense of mystery to the journey as our explorers find themselves in a world that is barely recognizable, foreign, bizarre and mysterious. Soule and Snyder move back and forth in time between the set up for the mission and the mission itself which gives the issue an excellent nonlinear but nonstop momentum as the team, who is mysteriously shot down as they cross the wall into the USA, find themselves in a very strange land facing bizarre dangers the likes of which they have never seen. There is a feeling of having left the modern world and being sent out into a bizarro version of the old lawless western frontier for me which is a great switch up to the world the team has come from.
The character dynamics are solid: from the tension between our epidemiologist Dr. Charlotte Graves and her brother soldier spy Daniel Graves to the bickering between the two diplomats representing the interests of the powers that be and the dialogue moves fluidly from page one helped along by great lettering from Crank! Snyder and Soule hit all the right beats all the way to the last page which is both clever (that Uncle Sam symbolism again) and also immediately flips assumptions over as the character of Sam Elgin reveals himself in the flesh and turns the group’s ideas of what they were actually coming to this undiscovered and barely recognizable land for on its head.
The art from Giuseppe Camuncoli & Daniele Orlandini is rich, high in technical detail and cinematic in layout and execution. The opening scene is a perfect example of this. It draws you in immediately. every panel is detailed and never wasteful but the paneling, while detail and text-rich, never feels cramped. The coloring from Matt Wilson complements the linework and works well for both the modern world outside the U.S as well as the more Mad Max-esque feel we are confronted with later in the book. The splash shots are sparse but incredibly effective conveying a sense of scale and drama and I found myself going back to paw over them more than once in my multiple readings of this oversized opening issue.
There’s one more thing about Undiscovered Country that really grabs me and that’s the unshakable feeling it gives of being tied to what’s happening in the world today. It’s nothing glaringly obvious or tacky and the book does a remarkable job of avoiding making any sort of political statement but there is that feeling of a connection for me which I really enjoyed about the book. The best comics make you feel something and this comic does just that. It sucks you into an adventure in a world recognizable as something that could be in the real world’s future but then flips the switch and plants you as a stranger in a strange land. It’s very clear this project is a labor of love for everyone involved and that shines through every page.
Undiscovered Country #1 is a beautifully illustrated and colored cinematic first issue that draws you in and wraps around your psyche from the opening scene and does not let go till the last page with tight perfectly pitched narrative and highly believable world-building.
Undiscovered Country #1: A Message from the Wilderness
- Writing - 10/1010/10
- Storyline - 10/1010/10
- Art - 9.8/109.8/10
- Color - 9.8/109.8/10
- Cover Art - 9/109/10
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